For many years, there was Jacky’s Bistro. Then it became, in short order, Jacky’s on Prairie, and the late, lamented Hota. Can the newest tenant finally lift the curse that has hung over this North Evanston location?
Just a few steps off Central Street, a hop and a skip from the Metra stop, Coast Sushi is open for business. As of this writing, they’ve been granted a liquor license, but they’re waiting for it to arrive, along with the alcohol. Until then, it’s BYOB.
They’ve made some positive changes (i.e. sleeker, more modern) to the décor, but it’s still in process. However, the central focus, a beautiful sushi bar, is in place. Service is pleasant, informed and uncomplicated. This is the third time around for Coast; with successful locations in Bucktown and the South Loop, they know what they’re doing and hit the ground running.
Although there’s plenty to choose from on the regular menu, be sure to ask for the Spicy Crab Cakes ($13), even if they aren’t on the specials menu. You’ll get four crisp wonton packages, filled with a spicy crab mixture—okay, they’re not technically “cakes”—fried to a crackly crunch and topped with an Asian interpretation of mango salsa. You won’t be sorry.
If you like to start your sushi binge with soup, try the Oyako ($6), with shreds of chicken, scallion and thick udon noodles sharing the aromatic broth. But I recommend the Sunny Side Shiitake ($8), four flat caps topped with sautéed spinach and gilded with a topping of “torched garlic yolk sauce.” Eggy, rich and deeply satisfying. You can skip the Shishito Goma ($7), an unexpected preparation of pan-fried shishito peppers tossed with zucchini in a sesame dressing. It was oily and under-seasoned.
There are a number of choices from the Robatayaki Bar, a cooking method where the skewered ingredients are cooked over hot charcoal. We chose the tasty Bacon and Eringi Mushrooms ($7), topped with jalapeno and drizzled with a light soy-based sauce. Other options included beef and asparagus, shrimp and tofu.
But on to the main event, because you’re here for the sushi, and it does not disappoint. Order the Dressed Sushi ($22) or Sashimi ($29) if you’re watching the carbs—a signature dish for Coast. Each of the six fish is prepared differently, paired with complementary flavors and carefully arranged. The tuna gets a drizzle of shoyu sake and a topping of uni; hamachi is dressed with ponzu, lemongrass and a pickled radish; salmon sports a cap of creamy scallop and a tiny slice of avocado; “super white tuna” (aka escolar) is dressed with ginger shoyu and wakame seaweed; kani (crab) is paired with avocado and rich yolk sauce; and unagi (eel) flirts with lotus root, jalapeno and a light teriyaki sauce. It’s a stunning dish.
Exhaustive Maki Menu
The Maki/Temaki menu is exhaustive, with many regular ($6-$13) “signature” rolls ($13-18) available. We opted for the Crunchy Spicy Tuna ($8), served in a starburst formation with a shower of tempura crumbs on top, and the Alaska ($9), a dressed-up cousin of the California roll, but here it’s real King crab, not fake, and the maki is rolled in roe, which contrasts nicely with the rice and bursts in your mouth.
For those of you who avoid sushi (and I have to wonder, why are you here?), there are a number of “kitchen entrees” available, including Yakisoba ($15), stir-fried noodles with veggies and your choice of chicken, beef, tofu or shrimp; tempura, seared tuna, filet, and Chilean sea bass.
Dessert is limited, but we always enjoy Mochi ($5.50 for two), especially the mango and strawberry. You can also go whole hog with the Banana Maki ($7), a Japanese take on Bananas Foster, fried, sliced and plated with chocolate sauce and vanilla ice cream. Not a light option by any means.
Prices are pretty reasonable for high-quality sushi. Would you trust cheap sushi? If you’re the type that would grab a pre-packaged box of “sushi” at the Jewel, this restaurant might not be for you. But if you like your sushi super fresh, you’ll want to check it out.
3.5 stars out of 5 (B+)
2545 Prairie Ave.