Tuna truffle nigiri bites at Sushi Dokku (Photo by Hilary Higgins/RedEye )
Eating slices of cold fish might not sound as comforting in the dead of winter as slurping a bowl of hot soup, but that hasn't slowed a recent mini-burst of new sushi spots. From a charming BYOB in Lakeview to a sleek bar and kitchen in the South Loop, these four new additions to the sushi scene have no shortage of expertly rolled maki—and plenty of cooked dishes, too, to warm you from the inside out.
Stetsons Modern Steak & Sushi
151 E. Wacker Drive 312-239-4491
Opened in: Early January
Backstory: Inside the Hyatt Regency, Stetson's Chop House belonged to the tradition of old Chicago steakhouses—it was dark, played a lot of Frank Sinatra and had the requisite grand piano. Re-envisioned as a sleek and sustainable steakhouse-meets-sushi bar, the new Stetsons dropped the apostrophe in its name and adopted the motto "anything but traditional," general manager Pete Karczewski said.
Most popular dishes: For the surf portion of your meal, order the fiery hamachi maki with wasabi and serrano chili ($20). As for the turf, try the cap steak, a 12-ounce filet from the top part of the ribeye ($48), paired with Stetsons' popular chimichurri sauce.
3006 N. Sheffield Ave. 773-360-1950
Opened in: Mid-February
Backstory: Owner and chef Warren Kovitsophon called upon his experience as head chef at Indie Cafe in Edgewater to open this tiny, open-kitchen sushi spot in Lakeview. Named for a creature in Japanese folklore that symbolizes luck, Tanuki is BYOB with no corkage fee and serves creative maki with quirky names, robata-grilled meats and veggies and dishes that blend Asian cuisine with Western flavors.
Most popular dishes: In the maki department, the Nutty Boy ($12) combines shrimp tempura, avocado, and mango with tempura and coconut flakes, all topped with tropical mayo, sweet soy, green tea powder and sliced almonds. Or, try the Sex on the North Beach roll ($15) made with octopus, crab, seared salmon, seared super-white tuna, raspberry sauce and chili mayo. For a taste of the aforementioned east-meets-west blend, try the spicy Asian escargot with panang curry and garlic bread ($8).
Umai Japanese Kitchen & Sushi
730 S. Clark St. 312-986-8888
Opened: Late January
Backstory: Executive chef Mai Pongpeera isn't from Japan (he's of Thai descent), but he has a deep respect for traditional Japanese cuisine. This South Loop restaurant is an homage to simple, home-cooked Japanese food, with a kitchen that focuses on homemade broth and sauces, Japanese barbecue, and of course, lots of sushi.
Most popular dishes: Pongpeera recommends the Beni Imo ($11) a crunchy roll made with baked Hawaiian sweet potatoes (which have an eye-catching violet hue), miso and honey. The grilled Japanese steak ($25) served with ponzu dipping sauce also is a chef's favorite.
823 W. Randolph St. 312-455-8238
Opened in: Mid-January
Backstory: Angela Lee and Susan Thompson, two of the three owners of former West Loop restaurant Sushi Wabi, opened their newest rendition, Sushi Dokku, with a desire to create the best possible sushi experience. "It's the food, the lighting, the dining room, the service, how the menu looks," Lee said. "But when you're thinking about eating sushi, you think about how you get the freshest quality fish." Dokku in Japanese translates to "dock," channeling the idea that its fish is as fresh as if a Japanese fisherman had plucked it from the sea moments before it arrived on your plate.
Most popular dishes: Signature nigiri bites ($5-$10) from chef Mariano Suarez consist of slices of fish with marinades or toppings, such as seared yellowfin tuna crowned with a fan of avocado and truffle oil. Lee also said that the tako yaki—flour-battered balls of chopped octopus served with Japanese mayo, unagi sauce and bonito flakes ($6)--fly out of the kitchen.
Hannah Greene is a RedEye special contributor.
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