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Jul 15, 2009 12:45 PM

Best Sushi in Chicago for Bostonian?

Headed to Chicago w/of July 20th for a trade show -- can local chowhounds help with best Sushi dinner location? We're staying at the Fairmont on Columbus. Mid-high price range is OK.

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  1. i enjoy katsu. i think it has the best quality of fish in chicago. but it's slightly out of the way and a bit pricey.

    for the immediate downtown area, i like naniwa. it's good and affordable. but the setting is not very inspiring (rather non-descriptive).

    there's also this place called "kaze" on the north side. it's sushi with creative/american presentation. it's not very authentic, and frankly it's a bit over-priced, but it's delicious food in a chic atmosphere.

    another good place in the suburb is "nippon kan." it's very authentic and doesn't have any american rendition of sushi - meaning no weird maki or sushi with cream cheese or excessive creamy sauces. it's in a golf course and has an exlcusive feel to it. but it's not reachable by public transportation, so it might not be practical for you.

    Kaze Sushi
    2032 W Roscoe St, Chicago, IL 60618

    Katsu Japanese Restaurant
    2649 W Peterson Ave, Chicago, IL 60659

    Sushi Naniwa
    607 N Wells St, Chicago, IL 60654

    Nippon-Kan Restaurant
    1625 Ardwick Dr, Hoffman Estates, IL 60169

    1. If you don't want to spend a lot of time or money going to suburbs or distant city neighborhoods, there are two places I would recommend in the general vicinity of the city center. Neither of them are walkable, but they are all a pretty close cab ride:

      Sushi Wabi on Raldolph St. in the West Loop. First rate interesting sushi.
      Kamahachi on Wells St. in Old Town. Nothing fancy, but always very fresh and good.

      A little bit further is Mirai west on Division in a neighborhood called Wicker Park. It is excellent, a little pricier, but worth the trip and the money.

      2020 W. Division St., Chicago, IL 60622

      Sushi Wabi
      842 W Randolph St, Chicago, IL 60607

      1. I too like Mirai and Katsu, but they are really pricey. My more normally-priced favorite is Coast. Interesting offerings, always good, and not quite as insanely priced.

        Coast Sushi Bar
        2045 N Damen Ave, Chicago, IL 60647

        18 Replies
        1. re: bourj

          Mirai is, far and away, my favorite sushi in Chicago. Coast is a great second rec, if price is the main object. As for Kamehachi (where I've had very so-so, unmemorable experiences): I'd rather have expensive, high quality sushi in a fun, beautiful space like Mirai than passable sushi for a little less.

          With careful ordering, Mirai is not that much more expensive than other places (and the extra $2-3 for nigiri and sushi or $3-5 for a roll is more than worth it). The chutoro I had at Mirai last weekend was my favorite bite of sushi in the past year! Plus the atmosphere is great: a fun strip of Division and a gorgeous room.

          1. re: Kaelin

            Mirai does have good sushi, but they're unfortunately much better with attitude, and lots of it. Now, I just don't return. If I'm in that neighborhood, I instead go to Bob San (pretty much across the street).

            Katsu, mentioned above, is absolutely the best sushi in Chicago, but it is a drive from downtown. But if it's pristine great fish you seek, Katsu is the place.

            1. re: BRB

              I've never experienced attitude at Mirai. Or maybe if it was there it didn't bother me. IMHO Bob San's sushi barely holds a candle to Mirai.

              I do, however, second the Coast suggestion, but then Coast is even further from the Fairmont than Mirai is. And you will also want to note that Coast is BYO.

              1. re: chicgail

                I had one very bad incident there which the manager made even worse . . . so I will not return. But I have always thought the food quality was very good. And while I think the food is better than Bob San, I believe Bob San is still quite good. In any event, I believe that even Mirai pales in comparison to Katsu in terms of fish quality.

                1. re: BRB

                  I'll have to try Katsu. Never been there.

                  1. re: BRB

                    i prefer naniwa over bob-san though. their menus are basically the same. but i had bad luck with bob san's service.

                    1. re: mountsac

                      Bob San is the more fashionable sibling . . . same ownership as Naniwa

                    2. re: BRB

                      My contention is that Katsu has the best sashimi/nigiri fish in the city and Mirai has the best Japenese dishes in the city

                      1. re: BRB

                        Having been to both on several occasions I don't get this fascination with Katsu (or Mirai, for that matter). I've had good and bad experiences at both and frankly, never a memorable one.

                        As far as "who has the freshest fish" goes I think it's silly. Yes, I've had some unusual items at Katsu but I've never found the fish to be less fresh elsewhere. Unless they have a stash of ocean fish swimming in a large tank out back (unlikely, give the small space) their fish is no more or less fresh.

                        1. re: ferret

                          Very well said ferret re 'freshest fish'. I'll get on the soapbox for a second, and ask everyone to think about the state of marine life that faces us and our future generations. So much has been said about sustainable fishing, and frankly, it is so confusing these days on what fish is good, what fish is bad, which is good if west coast, but not east coast, etc, etc. Even with reputable purveyors, their sources are also questionable. I'm not advocating non-fish eating to protect the species. But just think, of all our wild life, fish is the fatest depleting due to food consumption.

                          That said, as evidence by this thread, Japanese restaurants in this city are on par with Mexican restaurants in terms of variety and quality. One has the choice of authentic, no frills, mom&pop places, gigantic supermarkets and food stores, hipster lounges, and fine dining places.

                          1. re: ms. chow

                            i wish there are more places like ginza though. i also think chicago lacks authentic (and affordable) izakaya in the city. in new york, we loved this place called "riki" in midtown. don't even have to travel to east village, where all the izakaya congregate. but in chicago, we've yet to find an authentic and down-to-earth (in terms of food, decor and price) izakaya. we find torishin and kurumaya in the suburb closer to our expectations for izakaya. but they are far...

                            and while i'm on this rant, does anyone know where i can get good omurice in chicago? (i've tried the one at mitsuwa, and it's not really omurice.).

                          2. re: ferret

                            the quality of fish does differ . now i'm not sure if it's due to freshness though. for example, i find the scallop nigiri at bob san slightly sweeter and less fishy than its related sushi-ya naniwa. that might be due to freshness (i.e. number of days from catching), or it might be due to improper storage temperature or improper defrost time. another prominent example would be uni. when uni is less fresh (the preservative wears off), it gets watery on the surface rather than retaining its prickly appearance. now it's another matter if the uni was shipped without preservative, but i don't think that is the case in any sushi ya in chicago. and at some places in chicago, you will find very watery uni with stronger than normal fishy taste while in some you find more prickly uni.

                            another thing that i look at while judging the fish is the way it's cut and served. i've been to place in chicago where the ratio of fish and rice is off balance, too chunky, or cut vertical to the grain / muscle (not sure what's the proper word). i've also been to sushi ya where the temperature of fish and rice is off (i personally expect around room temp for fish and body temp for rice).

                            i admit that these might just be personal preferences that might not be as important for other people who have different expectations or different tastes, but i don't think it's "silly" for people who care about these aspects to voice the distinctions.

                            1. re: mountsac

                              You're getting pretty far afield of what I actually said. It's silly to say "fresher" or "freshest" when you have no basis for saying it. There's nothing to suggest Katsu has some secret pipeline to the sea. You can argue that they have better preparations or greater technical artistry or whatever but I've been to numerous places around town and just flat out dispute that their offerings are any less "fresh".

                              1. re: ferret

                                sorry to cause this debate. i actually am not disagreeing with you. i was talking about "quality in taste," rather than freshness.

                                but i responded not to defend myself; i just thought it's a subjective matter. obviously unless you ask the owner, you wouldn't have any hard evidence as your basis for such assessment. but i think when people say fresh, they mean "it tastes fresh to them," not that it is in fact fresh based on data or personal knowledge of the sushi-ya's operation. you might not be able to taste the difference, and you might even be right if we actually conduct a study about "freshness." but i think calling other people's subjective assessment "silly" is unnecessary.

                                1. re: mountsac

                                  It's the exercise that's silly. It's like saying "best pizza in the world". It goes beyond subjective to meaningless hyperbole. I have enjoyed sushi at a number of locations in Chicago, none of which can be faulted for lack of freshness. It's a quality one expects as a baseline where fresh fish is concerned. Once you get to fresh, "fresher" is an immeasurable standard.

                                  1. re: ferret

                                    well, in that regard, every "best" assessment (not just about freshness) is a hyperbole.

                                    also, none of the oceanic seafood in chicago can possibly be in its freshest form anyway (unless, like you said, someone has an aquarium in the back of the kitchen). so what you think is immeasurable can in a way be measured by how close the time of serving to the time of killing. some restaurants may order once a week, some may order less frequently or more frequently than that. it also makes a difference where you source the fish and when that market process/preserve/ship the caught fish. i have a feeling that when you say fresh, you mean fresh enough so that you won't get sick from eating it (i.e. not spoiled). but IMHO, no seafood in chicago can get to "fresh" to the truest sense of the word (as opposed to coastal cities). so "fresher" is technically possible. i don't pretend to know which place actually has the freshest, but i can imagine someone may be able to taste the difference, even when you think that difference is either non-existent or impossible to discern.

                                    1. re: ferret

                                      Try Katsu and then try some of the other sushi places in town and I believe you will notice a significant difference. Sure, almost all of the sushi in Chicago is being supplied by True World Foods in Elk Grove Village . . . yes, Katsu, Mirai, Tank, etc. all get their fish from the exact same supplier.

                                      But that does not mean that each sushi restaurant gets or serves the exact same quality of fish. Differences can be found in the way the fish is prepared at the restaurant, but a good sushi chef will also be heavily involved in selecting the fish delivered and will discern issues with fish when delivered just as a discerning customer at a fish market or at Whole Foods. A good sushi chef will know which fish (or pieces of fish) not to accept. The fact that restaurants choose to pay different prices for fish also leading to differences in quality, just as some steak houses order dry aged vs. wet aged beef, and prime vs. choice. Otherwise, none of us would care where we go for sushi and sashimi because it would all be the same.

                                  2. re: ferret

                                    Have a piece of uni and a piece of saba at five different places on the same day.

                    3. Thank you for the informative posts -- I'm leaning towards Mirai or Coast, depending on the price sensitivity that day. Either way, I'm looking forward to some excellent sushi.