Saturday, March 31, 2007


This city has some great sushi. Since we've moved here we've really enjoyed how much fresher and more available great sushi is, and Kaze, yet another restaurant just a few steps away from us, is a great example of this.

Kaze's Web site calls its offering "traditional" sushi preparation, but one thing I've been struck by on every occasion we've dined there is just how unique and interesting their combinations and ingredients are. When I first passed this tiny restaurant while strolling down Roscoe I thought it was just another carry-out fast food type of sushi place, but how wrong I was. You enter the door to find a serene, minimally decorated and mostly white room that seems to be so trendy right now. But far from being sterile, the atmosphere is warm and welcoming, in part because it's so darn small--there can't be more than 25 tables or so. The flowers that decorate the exhibition sushi bar are perfectly and precisely chosen and placed at regular intervals along the counter. I wonder if they get these at that adorable floral shop down the street I've been meaning to go into?

And the service is equally welcoming. Whether it's a weeknight after work or a fancy night out, we've never felt out of place or inappropriately attired and have always been treated extremely well by our servers. Both times we've gone we've had appetizers and sushi, though the restaurant offers several selections of Japanese entrees that look enticing. For appetizers, I have to rave for a minute about the Carrot Soup Peter ordered on our last visit. I'm highly suspicious of carrot soup as it usually just tastes like mushy baby food to me. And when Peter's small dish of soup arrived in what looked like an espresso cup, I didn't have high hopes. But as soon as I tasted the rich, slightly spicy and smoky soup I wanted more. Not to mention that there was a substantial chunk of crab floating on top. What a great way to warm up the palette. On another visit we had the Sweet Potato Soup, another creamy, delicious, warming creation that features (shhh, don't tell) just a hint of foie gras garnish.

We've sample various rolls (makimono), the best of which have been the caterpillar, soft-shell crab and whatever the special roll of the day is. Far from rolls you get at your local grocery store, these rolls are the freshest and most delicate I've tasted. We had the special last time we went, which featured ahi tuna spiced with jalapeno, and though it was good the taste wasn't as strong as we'd have liked. A colleague told me that the best thing to do here is go in, sit at the sushi counter and just ask them to create whatever specials they feel like. Sitting at the counter and watching the precision of the cuts and skill with which the chefs created the rolls, I could believe that pretty much anything they made would taste fantastic.

Though I've seen it on the menu we've never tried the tasting menu. It changes seasonally and looks delicious, and one night soon I'm sure we'll partake. Apart from this seasonal menu, there's a prix fixe tasting menu offered each Tuesday night. It's a bit pricey at $45 per person, but keep in mind that the price includes both sake and wine tastings. I'm also looking forward to enjoying the outdoor patio now that spring seems to finally have sprung.

Loyal readers will know of my obsession for dessert. Based on our server's recommendation we went with the Black Sesame Flan. This dessert was so unique from anything I've tasted before that I don't know that my description can truly do it justice. The flan was in the center of the plate but surrounded by a green soup of tapioca-like pearls that appeared to have sesame seeds in the center. The really cool thing about this dessert was really its texture, and we quickly lapped up every last bite trying to figure out just what it was and how it was made. It was light and fruity, slightly reminiscent of a lychee, and was the perfect ending to a meal that doesn't leave you feeling guilty for partaking. I'd probably need to sample it again to really describe it better. Or maybe next time I'll try the dessert sample to get a variety of Chef Macku's favorites? Now that sounds heavenly.

In short, Kaze is yet another reason I'm so glad we moved to Chicago. I know I'm going to be surprised and delighted with delicious, fresh food each time. It's the perfect night out to relax during the week or on weekends. And while sitting at the sushi bar is a fun and interactive way to enjoy the restaurant, it's equally good for a romantic night out or an evening with friends. Sure Japonais is more of the "it" place to hang out and be seen, but to enjoy Japanese cuisine that's at least as good if not better in a much more friendly environment, head to Kaze, right here in the Village.

The damage: depends on what you get, but about $50 per person with tip and a glass of wine each

Food: 5 out of 5 forks - seriously, I think this is some of the best sushi I've ever had (sorry to Beluga in Cincinnati--I still really like yours too)

Romance: 4 1/2 out of 5 kisses - I think this would be great for a first date (sit at the counter) or a fiftieth (go for a 2-top by the window). The lovely floral arrangements and candlelight make for quite a nice atmosphere and most importantly it's not too loud to enjoy a nice conversation

Watch out for: the crowd! There have a been a few times we've noticed a pretty long wait and have had to go elsewhere, so do yourself a favor and call ahead--it's worth it

2032 W. Roscoe Street
Chicago, IL 60618

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