Union Sushi & Barbeque Bar in River North (Lenny Gilmore/RedEye )
Union Sushi & Barbeque Bar
230 W. Erie St. 312-662-4888
Rating: !!! (out of 4) Off to a good start
The story: Ever read food blog “Mike & Chao Chow”? This River North sushi and kushiyaki bar is the brainchild of friends and co-bloggers Mike Schatzman and Worachai “Chao” Thapthimkuna, a former Sushi Wabi chef.
The scene: A towering wire sculpture and crayon-bright murals provide lots to look at, while the soundtrack alternates between head-nodding oldies and clubby beats. For the most action, sit at the bar to watch the sushi chefs or grab a seat in front of the robata grill, where you can watch skewers of meat, seafood and veggies (that’s the beforementioned kushiyaki) get their grill on.
The food:I wish I had room to try every starter on the menu, but so far I can only vouch for the addictive fried pork belly ($7). In the kushiyaki department, beef tongue with Japanese curry sauce and rice puffs was seriously tender, while chicken thigh and prosciutto-wrapped scallop weren’t anything special. Maki gets funky with rolls such as the Old City Market ($7) with lip-tingling spicy tuna wrapped with collard greens and garnished with fried okra. The yuzu pie ($6, described as “killer” on the menu) was a one-note wonder, the coconut crust too bland to counter the puckeringly tart citrus custard.
The drinks:There’s plenty of sake to choose from, but we couldn’t pass up craft cocktails designed by the guys behind Bittercube, a Milwaukee maker of small-batch bitters. The lemongrass-swizzled Yamato Sling and The 16 Century, a shochu-champagne cocktail are both $10 and dangerously guzzle-able.
Bottom line: Fun and funky, Union’s worth the walk to the far side of River North. I can definitely see myself going back for after-work snacks, a laid-back date or a group dinner.