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Oct 16, 2006 04:27 PM

Japanese place to take a Japanese student?

My daughter is coming home from her college in the boonies this weekend with her roommate, a Japanese exchange student. Any recommendations for a good Japanese place to take them for a nice dinner? Among other things, I'm sure she'd like to be able to speak Japanese with the waitstaff.



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  1. Why Japanese for a Japanese? Our Americanized Japanese cuisine may not live up to her expectations. How about something different like...American Continental, New American, or Greek, Persian, Italian, French, etc.
    Spring, Custom House, Alinea, Sola, Avenues, Santorini or Greek Islands, Blackbird, etc.

    1. Funny, I was thinking the same thing when I saw this post. Unless she specifically requested Japanese cuisine, why not treat her to something indigenous to the Chicago area. I know that if I were to travel to Japan, I wouldn't necessarily seek out a Chicago-style dining experience.

      That said, I have heard good things about Chiyo Japanese Restaurant (formerly Matsumoto) at 3800 W. Lawrence in terms of its authenticity and quality of the food.

      1. Maybe you guys missed the last half of the OP's post.

        "Among other things, I'm sure she'd like to be able to speak Japanese with the waitstaff."

        It's an exchange student that's been here for awhile that is the guest in question. I know that when I lived in Paris for 6 months or Tokyo for 6 months, I'd get a little homesick and LOVED running into an American to speak English with. JMO. You might try Ginza Fish, a nice sushi place downstairs at the Tokyo Hotel. Don't let the outside fool you, when you go inside you are transported to Tokyo.

        1. Naniwa (Ohio and Wells) would be a good place to try for Japanese-speaking waitstaff.

          If that is your main criteria, avoid the Streeterville and Old Town locatations of Kamehachi. Very good food, but I've only had non-Asian waiters and waitresses there.

          1. If it doesn't have to be located in the city core, I'd recommend Renga-Tei in Lincolnwood for their homecook style along with a Japanese-speaking staff. If the student misses being around other Japanese nationals, Mitsuwa Marketplace in Arlington Heights would be a good place to hang around. You can eat at the food court (food is just OK but there's a good selection), stock up on Japanese groceries and baked goods (Pastry House Hippo) and browse the bookstore. The bakery is good enough reason to visit, IMO.

            3 Replies
            1. re: Wolfy_sm

              I agree that Renga-Tei would be good for Japanese home-style food. Another place that is popular with Japanese-Americans is the Sunshine Cafe on Clark street. It is not very fancy, but usually has many Japanese patrons dining there. Kuni's in Evanston might also be good. For a more upscale meal, there is always Katsu.

              1. re: Roger Spark

                There are often Japanese-speaking folks at Kuni's, but I think Kuni may at times be the only Japanese-speaking employee (maybe Mrs. Kuni speaks Japanese?). That being said, the sushi is very good - but apparently is "Osaka style". We know at least one Japanese fellow who really doesn't like Kuni's because of this. I guess it's like pizza - you probably prefer the kind you grew up on :)

                1. re: leek

                  Interesting. I did not know about the "Osaka" thing, but that makes sense. Kuni's was the first place I ever ate sushi, and since then I have noticed that Kunisan's style is different from other chefs. Now I know why. I thought it might be a good choice for a homesick student because it has a rather rustic down-home Japanese ambience, as opposed to some of the more glitzy places. But you are right, aside from the owners, the waitstaff seems to be American college students.