Sushi isn’t just a trend, it’s a way of life, especially in a city as diverse and eclectic as Chicago. “Chicago diners have become more experimental and more open to trying new formats of sushi offerings, such as omakase,” says B.K. Park, owner and chef of Chicago’s Mako and Juno, two sushi restaurants we are seriously digging right now. “It’s really exciting to see so many exceptional sushi-focused and omakase restaurants that have opened up in the last 12 months alone in Chicago, which perfectly illustrates this growing interest.”
Although we’re landlocked from oceans, Chicago’s top chefs have no shortage of access to the world’s freshest fish, and you’ll find tastes of this on the menus of the city’s best sushi restaurants.
“Being in the Midwest, diners don’t necessarily think of Chicago having great seafood and fish. But because we are in the middle of the country, we are centrally located and have access to both East and West coast fish,” says Executive Chef Gene Kato of Momotaro.
Whether you’re looking for melt-in-your-mouth fat-marbled otoro, tangy uni, or simple grab n’ go rolls you can nosh on the way home from work, these restaurants serve the freshest and most forward-thinking raw fish in the city. From budget bites to five-star Michelin restaurants, you’ll have no reason not to hit up one of these delectable sushi places throughout the Windy City.
Arguably one of the most popular sushi hot spots in Chicago, Sushi-San brings sushi to the masses with a beautifully outfitted restaurant in the bustling River North neighborhood. “I can confidently point to any ingredient we use at Sushi–San and know that it is the best of that particular ingredient that is available in Chicago that day,” says Amarit Dulyapaibul, partner at Sushi–San. Created by sushi star Kaze Chan (of Kaze and Momotaro), this Lettuce Entertain You eatery just announced a new 10-course omakase menu, but has been regaled for their San-Set, which consists of perfectly portioned bites ranging from sashimi and nigiri to fresh crafted rolls. If you’re starving or with a group, opt for the Megatron, a bountiful collection of 12 nigiri, 12 sashimi, and two rolls. No matter what, don’t miss their fluffy Japanese pancakes, which are as light as air and a huge Instagram sensation.
Surprisingly affordable and elegant, Kai Zan is one of River West’s most popular sushi joints. The brainchild of Melvin and Carolo Vizconde, the omakase menu is the way to go, whether you choose the chef’s choice or the new Omakase — boasting premium offerings that are carefully selected. Off the menu, you’d be remiss not to try the scallops or oyster shooters, the escolar or magura pearls, or the green monster roll made with shrimp tempura, unagi, and crab, or the fiesta maki made with fresh tuna, salmon, jalapeño, and spicy chili oil.
The newest restaurant by celebrated sushi chef B.K. Park in the West Loop, Mako is an exclusive omakase restaurant that touts just 12 seats, with an additional 10 seats in the back. “Mako is an evolution of Juno [in Lincoln Park],” says Park. “It allows our customers to enjoy what we create in a more intimate way that’s a bit more upscale and special occasion.” Intimate and truly reminiscent of Japan’s best sushi eateries, Mako’s 25-course menu (which sets you back $175) comes with a satisfying array of BK favorites — including sashimi, nigiri, king crab with uni miso, A5 wagyu, arctic char, and aka anago (sake marinated saltwater eel).
More than a sushi restaurant, Momotaro is a Japanese gastronomic experience — with a menu offering everything from super fresh sashimi to spicy beef curry spaghetti and black garlic oil or jidori chicken oysters with yuzu. However, you’d regret not ordering chef Kaze’s incredible variety of hand-selected sushi, including the nigiri or sashimi, or his sushi rolls, like the mommaki with big eye tuna, spicy tako, and pickled daikon. Another favorite is the over-the-top A5 Ebi Uni Maguro, made with charred A5 Miyazaki beef, botan ebi, uni, and bigeye tuna maki.
With an interior that looks more like an art gallery than a restaurant, the intimacy of Kyoten is what makes this exclusive and expensive eatery worth every penny. With a price tag starting at $220 for the chef’s tasting menu, chef Otto Phan serves up 20 or so courses that are wholly inspired by what the chef has access to. Although the ingredients change, you can expect small, hand-packed rolls of nigiri made with fresh tuna, fatty salmon, sawara (an aged mackerel), uni, butter poached shrimp, caviar, and even whole snapper butchered at the counter.
If you’re going to describe the interior of Clark Street’s Roka Akor, the word trendy will undoubtedly come to mind. With gilded accents and statement décor throughout, the atmosphere perfectly matches the sushi menu, which features bites with a touch of glitz and glamour. For a true taste of the restaurant’s sushi offerings, opt for the Omakase menu, which will set you back over $130. The menu comes with caviar and truffles on a few of their rolls. If you’d prefer to order off the menu, try their famous robata grilled Japanese shishito peppers, yellowtail sashimi, or the crispy prawn or seared salmon maki rolls. Their cocktails pair perfectly, with bright citrus flavors and beautiful adornments.
Hidden away in Lincoln Park behind a black door, Juno is arguably one of the city’s best sushi restaurants. Created by B.K. Park, the only way to enjoy this truly Japanese-inspired menu is sitting at the counter. Nosh on freshly sliced sashimi chosen by B.K. and adorned with orchids or a chef’s choice of nigiri. If you’d rather order off the menu, chef recommends the fatty Otoro sashimi, the shiro anago (sake marinated sea eel) nigiri, and the A5 wagyu tartare with panko and shimeji. You’d be remiss not to try the signature Juno King, which consists of hearty servings of tuna wrapped in sticky rice and topped with spicy king crab.
With a large statement chandelier made of sticks and bold and bright lights, the décor of Sunda almost looks like you’re walking through a Southeast Asian night market. Although they’re known for sushi, the menu is more Asian-fusion, with dishes like adobo braised pork belly, garlic crab noodles, and Chinese inspired dim-sum. Their signature sushi is a can’t miss — try the rainbow with king crab, tuna, salmon, or escolar, the “spicy tail of two tunas” made with yellowfin and escolar, or the crunchy pig, hidden lobster, made with soy paper, lobster, tempura crispies, and bacon. Pair the sushi bites with peared sake, made with Grey Goose Vodka and Zipang Sparkling Sake.
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