Maneuvering sushi with chopsticks indicates an advanced level of dexterity built up from a childhood spent using colored pencils to eat LEGOs. Flaunt nimble fingers with today's Groupon: for $15, you get $30 worth of sushi and Japanese fare at Sushi Badaya in Highland Park.
Sushi Badaya's hybrid head chef and owner artfully slices and plates fresh fish to create specialty rolls, nigiri, sashimi, and gourmet maki alongside thoroughly seared Japanese entrees. The dinner menu bowls over sushi cravings with the dragon combo, where red-dragon rolls flaunt fiery tuna and eel in front of the white-dragon roll's spicy crabmeat, punctuated with bites of crunch-dragon rolls ($25.95). Nigiri and sashimi interpretations of smoked scottish salmon ($2.85) or sea urchin ($4.10) take center stage to lure in taste buds or perform Macbeth's dramatic noodling monologue. Spicy octopus maki ($7.10) props open mouths for second courses of sizzling salmon ($17.95) or teriyaki steak ($18.95) accompanied by salad and miso soup.
An Asian-inspired mural showcases a gargantuan fish licked by cerulean waves behind Sushi Badaya's bar, and paper screens kiss the corners between violet and amber walls like a mathematician in love with angles. Meanwhile, natural light floods through large glass windows, streaming across hardwood floors and black wooden tables.
Upon a marbled wall, a Japanese triptych mural tells the story of a gargantuan fish licked by cerulean waves and a tiny boat tossed about in its wake. Even though this vibrant piece reflects a chaotic scene, the sushi bar where the owner and head chef crafts creative rolls and maki is anything but—he’s a seasoned artist with more than 15 years' experience slicing, dicing, and coiling. He carefully furls Alaskan king crab, shrimp tempura, and sweet chili sauce and creates tantalizing nigiri and sashimi with freshly carved squid and freshwater eel. Bartenders, meanwhile, pour wines and sakes to complement the chef's mouthwatering Japanese cuisine.
Sunlight pours through ground-to-ceiling windows, streaming across hardwood floors and dark wooden tables that friendly servers speckle with dishes of aromatic steak teriyaki and tempura udon soup. Diners can enjoy these exotic feasts amid the contemporary yet casual dining room’s traditional folding screens and bamboo accents or, when the extraterrestrial overlords who control the weather permit it, outside on the patio.
600 Central Ave.
Highland Park, Illinois 60035