Whether you're seeking excellent sushi, a relaxing atmosphere, or one of the imaginative creations on famed chef Toyoji Hemmi's menu, Ai Sushi is a sure bet. Try the wasabi fillet mignon, sea bass cartoccio, or the Parmesan salmon teriyaki. Of course, one can't mention Ai without talking about blowfish; they are the only restaurant in the Midwest licensed to serve this treat. Once professionally de-poisoned by the culinary surgeons at Ai, blowfish is a complex, flavorful delicacy that you won't want to miss. Death-defying and great tasting, eating blowfish will make sky diving and other "extreme sports" feel one dimensional and tedious.
Overall, Yelpers give Ai a handsome 3.5 stars, with Elite Yelper Ria A. giving them an enthusiastic 5 stars: "The restaurant is huge and really nice inside. The service was good and there was a great amount of detail that went into the food presentation. I thought that the food was fresh and I was really amazed by the quality and quantity of food that we enjoyed for such a really great price!"
Uncle Groupon bought a couple of these last time and looks forward to restocking, as I am no longer capable of reliving my mind's Ai by loading their website music while I eat microwave fish sticks and rice. As I recall, Ai's food and ambiance were exceptional, but I was particularly impressed by the customer service. To evaluate the service staff, I conduct a 5 stage "stress test," during which I issue increasingly unjustifiable requests of my waiter, gradually ensnaring them in the insidious jaws of customer-is-always-rightology - something like boiling a frog in water. Ai was tolerant as I unrolled 5 different servings of maki (once as my server looked on) and, in turn, sent each back to the kitchen, claiming that it was they who had forgotten to roll it. Ai demonstrated remarkable patience and deference throughout the sequence.
Ai is also a great place to unwind after work, with a substantial wine selection and a collection of sake that will make you say, "for goodness sake!" Say that to the bartender, and he or she will release 13 white doves into Ai's luxuriously high ceiling rafters.
So if you're looking for a great sushi place at an unbeatable price, grab a couple of today's Groupons.
Explore more Chicago restaurants.
Ai Japanese Restaurant & Lounge
When executive chef Toyoji Hemmi surveys the restaurant's daily deliveries of fresh seafood, he envisions how the fish can be used to create exciting, new sushi entrees instead of just the widely expected staples. Food & Wine magazine praised this dedication to inventive flavor combinations in 2005, labeling chef Hemmi an "innovator" and calling him one of its "favorite iconoclasts" in the United States.
He accentuates maki with seemingly disparate ingredients—including rosemary, walnuts, and cherry tomatoes—that add new dimensions to the rolls' familiar tastes, textures, and pronunciations. Established Japanese flavors remain at the forefront of other items though, such as the wasabi-rubbed filet mignon and the organic cha-soba noodles. This distinctive interplay between contemporary and traditional approaches helped to earn the menu a score of "very good to excellent" from Zagat.
The dining room's vaguely industrial setting also toes the line between contemporary and historic, featuring rustic brick walls and exposed wooden rafters as well as chic, low-slung chairs and modern track lighting. Diners can peek behind the stone-countered sushi bar and watch the chefs assemble platters of maki and nigiri, or join the bartenders, who pass their evenings pouring tastes of sake and shochu.
Near North Side
358 W Ontario St
Chicago, Illinois 60654Get Directions