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Rockin’ Rolls

Maki creations: Is there any substance beneath all that style?

Much to the chagrin of sushi purists, Chicagoans can’t get enough of those cleverly named, grandiose maki creations. Japanese restaurants around town thumb their noses at tradition by rolling out ostentatious signatures incorporating honey, sunflower seeds, mozzarella, and even strawberries. Is there any substance beneath all that style?

RESTAURANT
MAKI
INSIDE
OUTSIDE
THE GRADE

Sushi Wabi
842 W. Randolph St.; 312-563-1224

Godzilla ($16) Tempura shrimp, avocado, masago mayo, cream cheese, green onion, chili sauce Tempura crumbs, eel sauce, sesame seeds, wasabi mayo, orange tobiko Arguably the instigator of the Huge Maki craze, it’s stuffed to the gills with tasty ingredients.
Blu
Hotel Orrington, 1700 Orrington Ave., Evanston; 847-491-9220
White Sox ($12) Spicy tuna, shrimp tempura, avocado, cucumber, spicy mayo Super white tuna, black tobiko Black-and-white presentation may impress Sox fans. Overpowering spicy mayo won’t.
Meiji
623 W. Randolph St.; 312-887-9999
Ichigo ($13) Spicy eel, avocado, jalapeño tempura, masago Spicy tuna, to-garashi (seven-spice blend), strawberries Fresh, balanced, and innovative.
SushiSamba Rio
504 N. Wells St.; 312-595-2300
El Topo ($13.50) Rice Salmon, jalapeño, shiso leaf, mozzarella, crispy fried onions Served hot, it’s ideal for those who don’t like the taste of raw fish.
Toro
2546 N. Clark St.; 773-348-4877
Best of Both Worlds ($15) Spicy tuna, deep-fried red snapper, crab salad, cucumber, kani, salmon, white tuna, masago, sunflower seeds, spicy mayo Tuna, super white tuna, salmon, chili sauce, eel sauce Gigantic, colorful roll bursting with fresh ingredients is a meal in itself—if you can fit it into your mouth.

Agami
4712 N. Broadway; 773-506-1845

Green Turtle ($15) Eel, avocado, tempura crunch Shrimp, wasabi tobiko, creamy wasabi, eel sauce It’s shaped like a turtle, which is cool, but flavors are bland.

T Spot Sushi and Tea Bar
3925 N. Lincoln Ave.; 773-549-4500

Hot Spot ($17) Honey, shiitake mushrooms, tamago Spicy shrimp, crab, eel torched with sesame oil, jalapeño, red tobiko When it arrives, the plate is actually set on fire, and more heat follows when the fantastic jalapeño-honey pairing goes down.

Photograph: Christina Zerkis

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