Sushi began as a type of fast food, which is why traditionalists only eat it immediately after it’s thrown out of the window of a speeding trolley. Keep up with today's Groupon: for $10, you get $20 worth of sushi and Japanese fare at Ukai.
Executive chef Paul Chant, influenced by his international culinary exploits, loads Ukai’s menu with delectable dishes that help create an for authentic Japanese BYOB dining experience. Diners embark on their Easterly jaunt with a brief background check and a selection from the Garden, such as edamame ($4) or the gomae salad—a cucumber, spinach, and sesame powder concoction that was chosen as one of Time Out magazine's 100 Best Dishes of 2010 ($5). The Maki Club section harbors such treasures as the Beauty and the Beast roll with cream cheese, avocado, and fresh tuna ($8), and rolls dedicated to local sports, such as the Bears roll ($8) and the Bulls roll ($8). Eight entree platters hunt and gather selections from elsewhere on the menu and assemble them into tidy and diverse dining assortments: the sushi platter includes a chef's selection of four pieces of nigiri and a diner's choice of sports maki.
Patrons dine comfortably in the glow of pleasant lighting amid grass-cloth coverings that adorn the dining room walls. Modern wood dining chairs and walnut barstools firmly support seated shimmying to the beat of the restaurant’s diverse playlist or musically inclined flatware.
Named after the Japanese tradition of using trained cormorants to catch fish, Ukai specializes in raw morsels of the sea. They're prepared at a sleek sushi bar by the sushi chefs, and though they honors the classics, the aren't afraid to invent modern takes on seafood. To create the Ukai carpaccio, for example, they seasons a trio of thinly sliced fish with sliced dates, crispy bacon, lemongrass candy, and pineapple yuzu puree. They also devotes an entire section of the menu to Chicago sports teams. Guests can show their allegiance to the Cubs by downing a lightly fried maki roll filled with fresh mozzarella and shrimp tempura, or root for the Bears with a spicy salmon roll.