Make Your Reservation Now for Momotaro – West Loop, Chicago

Momotaro has everything you could ever want in a Japanese restaurant, a sushi bar, robata station, izakaya and an extensive sake, wine and drink menu. Great attention is paid the interior design bringing Western influences from the mid-century and combing it with traditional Japanese. You can see this reflected in the furniture, fonts used for the wood-paneled drink board to the menus and inter-departmental mail envelope used to deliver the bill. Service is excellent and friendly.

Take the tour:

Video created via Tastemade

The standout was the momotaro tartare made from Continue reading

Enjoying A Bowl Of Ramen At Wasabi – Logan Square, Chicago

Wasabi Chicago Spicy Roasted Garlic Miso Ramen

Wasabi is one of the few Japanese owned Japanese restaurants in Chicago so I had some high hopes for a good bowl of ramen. This tiny casual spot fills up in a flash and does not take reservations. Get here by 5:30 if you don’t want to wait on a Saturday. Also, BYOB.

In addition to ramen the menu offers a variety of sushi and small plates such as seaweed salad, pork buns, grilled skewers and tempura. The Tonkotsu ramen has a 40+ cooking process made with kurobuta pork from small farms in Iowa. I really wish they served a ramen flight because I wanted to try each kind. We decided on:

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Zagat Number 1 Spot in Chicago – Katsu | Rodgers Park

Katsu Sign

Katsu is refreshingly not trendy (untrendy?). From the traditional  Japanese menu to the minimal decor to the actual location. Chef-owner Katsu Imamura serves up authentic Japanese for those that appreciate fish and his years of experience.

Zagat rated Katsu number one over the likes of Alinea and Vie as Chicago’s best restaurant. There is a reason why it’s been open for over two decades. Chef Imamura and his wife have cultivated great relationships with fish purveyors around the world so you can enjoy not only ultra fresh fish but also hard to find and lesser known quality fish.

We stopped in here for an early quick dinner on a weekday (I’ll be back when I have more time and appetite). The sushi counter is always the best seat in the house because you are in the middle of the action. Watching nimble hands crafting small works of art one after another and while conversing with the sushi chefs and your neighbors.

Katsu Sushi Bar

The theme for the night was “melt-in-your mouth”  because that is essentially what every bit of food did. The generous portions of salmon nigiri with gold flecks and roemelted like a rich butter.

Kastu Salmon Nigiri

Even cooked items dazzled the palate like the kitchen special for the day, Grilled Silver Codfish. Described as “very tasty and juicy fresh Silver Codfish grilled ans served with fresh green vegetables.” You could eat it with a spoon and it fell apart once it hit your mouth. Cooked perfectly and full of rich flavor for the usually mild flavored fish.

Katsu Grilled Silver Codfish

We did not order the omakase (chef’s choice of tasting menu) but once I finally do Katsu will be the restaurant it will happen in. I am confident it will be money well spent. You can still find more Americanized items such as rolls. We settled for a selection that was heavy on the fish and light on the sauces, always a good sign.

Katsu Rolls and Salmon Nigiri

I am a big fan of beer with sushi and this Red Rice Hitachino Nest Beer was fantastic. Just the right amount of sweet notes and bitter to be complex enough to stand up to the sushi but not over power it in taste. I’m also a fan of the White Ale. From an aesthetic stand-point the label is pretty cute.

Hitachino Nest Red Rice Beer

Sliced oranges for dessert was the perfect end to this amazing meal. Katsu is for those who appreciate high quality fish presented in a traditional Japanese manner. Your dinner will not be cheap but as they say, you get what you pay for.

Katsu 2651 W Peterson Ave Chicago, IL 60659

Late Night @ Sushi Seki – Upper East Side, NYC

My ultimate sushi destination is Sukiyabashi Jiro in Tokyo, Japan a Michelin 3-star restaurant run by Jiro Ono. He is close to 90 and has run this world-famous restaurant for years. As you can imagine he takes his sushi seriously and the fish speaks for itself. Since I am not getting to Tokyo nor spending $300 for a meal anytime soon so I search out sushi bars that are unassuming and treat sushi like artists.

Image via

Image via

Enter Sushi Seki.  The unassuming store front that opens up into a no-frills medium-sized restaurant has some of the best sushi waiting for you inside.  The vibe is laid back but hyper focused on the fish and service.  Crowd is a mix of Upper East Siders, cabbies and chefs (the sushi bar is open until 3am).  The preparation and presentation fall somewhere in between traditional and modern style sushi.

Sushi Seki Sushi Bar Continue reading

It’s Mardi Gras, Let’s Go Back to New Orleans – Yuki Izakaya

This weekend, a friend of mine  was boarding next to a flight to New Orleans and she sent me a text reminiscing about our trip to Mardi Gras back in the day. It got me thinking of my most recent trip to New Orleans and a place I fell in love with, Yuki Izakaya. Happy Fat Tuesday,  Laissez le Bon temp rouler!

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I Ate Alligator | Union Sushi + Barbeque – River North

I didn’t plan on it, it just happened one night in River North. So began my meal at Union Sushi + Barbeque. Seems to be the “it” thing this year in Chicago, sushi & BBQ.  Said alligator is pictured above on the right-hand side. Looks harmless, doesn’t it? Someone asked me if it was crispy, it was not. It had the consistency of chicken just a bit heartier tasting. I did go back and ordered the alligator again and they were out so it must be popular. My recommendation is to try it. It won’t hurt and the portion is so small you don’t have to commit to a full appetizer or entrée and you can feel adventurous.

From left to right:

PROSCIUTTO-WRAPPED SCALLOP | wasabi-avocado purée, sweet plum sauce, fried ginger – Very tasty and the most interesting item from the barbeque bar to me (including the alligator). Plum sauce and ginger were a good complement to the scallop.

CHICKEN THIGH | Japanese-curry – Good flavor but with so many other items on the menu I wouldn’t order again.

BEEF FILET | ginger-soy – I did not try this but my meat-loving dining partner really liked it.

ALLIGATOR | garlic-soy + Kirin Light  – You should try it just to try it. Heartier like a venison but not strong flavor.

WHOLE SQUID | tare-soy – Pictured below. I did not try it but was told it was good and it would be a repeat order.

Having the BBQ part out-of-the-way I moved on to the sushi/seafood. First up was the truffled tuna with truffle oil, avocado, parmesan, chile fresco + wonton chips. For some reason I couldn’t initially taste the truffle oil but once I did it made the dish worth ordering.

Next: OYSTERS ON THE HALF SHELL | (6) red tobiko, green onion, crispy shallot + jalapeno-cilantro ponzu. I’m not a huge oyster eater but the flavor combination was great. The green onion with the texture of the crispy shallot was really good. Bold but in a delicate way…if that makes any sense. These were ordered again on the second visit.

The Union Rolls look a lot more interesting than the classic rolls so we went for those and were not disappointed. You can order half-orders of all the rolls so it makes it easier to try more at one time.

OLD CITY MARKET | spicy tuna, seared salmon, spicy ponzu, cilantro, green onion, fried okra + wrapped in collard green. I really like the collard green wrap. The fish tasted fresh and did not seem hidden behind all the flavors. It was ordered on the second visit.

THE BELLY ROLL | hamachi, cucumber, orange tobiko, scallion, chili paste aioli, crispy tempura crumbs, fried pork belly strips + eel sauce. I loved this roll, yes there is pork belly on top and it seems weird but it worked. Another repeat order.

Besides the rolls my next favorite thing about Union Sushi + Barbeque  were the craft cocktails.

THE SPARROW BEE | El Dorado 5 year Rum, Lemon, Honey Syrup, Mint, Bittercube Jamaican #2 Bitters. This is the type of drink that if you are not careful you finish it in no time. Not because you want a buzz but because you don’t want the perfect taste to end. When you take the first sip and your eyes get bigger and you say, “Oh my god, this is so good, you have to try it.” Then the person with you is bummed because your drink is so much better.

That is unless you ordered the NIGHT SCENE | Sobieski Vodka, Rock Sake, Cocchi Americano, Combier Orange Liqueur, Bittercube Orange Bitters.  Another perfectly balanced drink and deceptively strong as the vodka is hardly tasted.

I did get a dessert but don’t necessarily recommend it. Tasted like prepackaged dessert: KILLER YUZU PIE | coconut biscuit crust, fresh whipped cream

Before the rolls and cocktails, my favorite thing about Union Sushi + BBQ is the space itself. It is nice and open, visually interesting and the music is great. The atmosphere makes it hard to leave and miss going to Up Bar that is you guessed it, upstairs to continue the night.