Photo: Courtesy of kai zan

A colorful platter of sea bass sunomono at Kai Zan. 

Kai Zan (2557 W. Chicago Ave., Humboldt Park, 773-278-5776). Sushi/Japanese.

(two and a half stars)


Sit-down restaurants don’t come much cozier, more charming, or more frequently packed to the gills than this one. The self-effacing menu doesn’t prepare you for the superbly fresh, endlessly inventive offerings of twin-bro chefs Melvin and Carlo Vizconde, including masterful sushi, sashimi, kushiyaki, and maki of every description; elegant tonkatsu shiso age; and unagi poppers you won’t be able to stop thinking about. There’s even a $50 chef’s-choice multicourse tasting menu—pretty astonishing in a place that lets you bring your own wine and beer and serves the food on mismatched china.

Dishes We Liked: Maguro pearls ($8), kushi (lava rock charbroil selections ($3 and $4), yaki soba ($8-$11), tonkatsu shiso age ($8), unagi poppers ($10), flaming tuna roll ($13), Angry Crab sushi ($8).

New restaurant reviews, updated to reflect critics’ recent visits, appear each month in Chicago magazine, in Dine, as well as on our website. Listed restaurants are rated from one to four stars, where one is good, two is very good, three is excellent, and four is superlative. Kai Zan previously was not rated. The review appears in the August issue.