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

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 businessinsider.com

Image via businessinsider.com

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

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.

Roka Akor Chicago – One of the Top 10 New Sushi Spots in the Country?

Salmon Nigiri Sushi with chopsticks, 2008.

Image via Wikipedia

A couple of weeks ago I was downtown near River North and had a craving for sushi. It was Sunday around 6pm so any of the normal lunch sushi places that come to mind were not open. I have been wanting to try a place up north but my appetite wasn’t having it so thought, Sunda. I know what I am getting, I like it and it won’t be crazy crowded. Walking there I looked across the street and noticed a restaurant that I had never seen before.

I crossed the street to check it out and noticed it was huge, easily over 5,000-square-feet. The design drew me in enough to pique my curiosity and look at the menu. Once stepping inside it was decided, why not try a new spot? After chatting with the waiter I learned that Roka Akor is a chain but not with the “bad” connotations that chain restaurants can have.  In fact, Bon Appetit lists this as one of the Top 10 Sushi Spots.

I guess I came at the right time as there was not wait and the restaurant was not crowded as I’ve read it has been after it opened. I am glad that I came in not having any expectations or knowing the history of the restaurant. Having been open for less than two weeks you could tell the staff, although well-trained, was still getting a feel for the service they were presenting. I am one that does not necessarily “require” the wait staff to be hyper attentive. It’s okay if my water-glass is half-full or my plate not cleared the second I am finished. Someone was there the second after I finished or had less than “enough” water. It wasn’t annoying just noticeable and I do know that there are a lot of people who like their service this way. This really would be my only complaint and it really isn’t even that, more an observation.

Along with sushi Roka Akor is known for its robata grill. The second half of the menu is dedicated to grilled items.

The drink menu is extensive and by extensive I mean about 45 pages. Sake, wine, cocktails and beer. I had the Blood Orange Margarita. It was delicious. Any drink that uses fresh juice is automatically going to be good and the chili salt/sugar rim was a great finisher to the drink.

Dinner:

Wagyu Beef Kimchi Dumplings – Very tasty. Kimchi was just the right bitterness for the rich Wagyu

Maki Roll, Hamachi Serrano Chili Roll – One of the rolls that was further way from the traditional rolls you see on every menu. The chili on top was just enough for a kick but not overpowering.

Prime Skirt Steak (8 oz.) with Sweet Garlic Soy – The flavor and texture were the best I have tasted in a while in Chicago.

Salmon Nigiri – Very fresh, the melt in your mouth fresh that seems to be hit-or-miss in Chicago.

Dessert – Chocolate cake with roasted coffee beans and coffee ice-cream

Overall I would recommend this place for those that want an alternative to Sunda, have both sushi and steak eaters and don’t mind spending some money. I would like to see how the lounge/bar area of the restaurant pans out, will it be a cool place to hang out and they will throw a dj in there or just a place to wait before dinner?  The music they played in the dining room was very modern and even had some hip-hop thrown in. Menu is extensive so you can go back again and again and work your way through it. Good for a date or dinner with friends but for me, not for your everyday. I don’t think Roka Akor is top 10 but does rank highly with solid sushi.

P.S. Since this was an impromptu outing I did not have a good camera with me so the pictures are a bit off as I used my phone.