Cost: $20 per person
Since my buddy Josh and I are seemingly always busy studying these days, it had been a really long while since our last meal together. You might remember from early on in the JEC days when I explained what sushi enthusiasts the Finkle family members were in my post on Ichiban. Well not only were we craving sushi this time around, but we were excessively hungry. All you can eat seemed to be the way to go, and the nearest place I knew of was Sushi Para II.
Side Note: I'm not sure if it's Sushi Para II or Sushi Para Too because the website and the storefront have a clear discrepancy.
So there are a bunch of Sushi Para spots throughout the Chicago land area. There's the original in Palatine, Sushi Para M in Wicker Park, Sushi Para II in Lincoln Park, Sushi Para D in Lakeview, and then another one (confused on the name) in the loop. Either way, it should be noted that there are significant differences among the different locales. I'd already been to the one in Palatine (which I love), so I was very excited to try the one out in Lincoln Park.
We went on a Friday night at 7:30. They only take reservations for parties of 6 or more, so we were in a bad situation. I figured we'd check to see what the wait was, and if it was reasonable we'd stick around. The host said it would be 45 minutes, and thinking that wasn't so bad, we decided to stick it out. After a little more than an hour of waiting, I checked with him and he basically gave me a look like "what do you want me to do, people just aren't getting up." Eventually we were sat after 2 HOURS OF WAITING. I'm not saying that we came at the right time, and I feel that part of the blame is on us. Still, if he had been anywhere near the ballpark of right timing, we never would have waited around. At least with the absurd wait, we were really starving for some sushi (and our anger turned eating our money's worth into a vindictive challenge).
The place is BYOB, so at least you can have something to drink while you wait for a table. The service was pretty quick, but I think that's because we got sat relatively close to closing time. The deal is that you can order as many times as you want for $19. This can go on forever, unless they sit you right before closing time when you can really only place so many orders before the chefs go home. I still think we had about as much as we could eat though. Also, there's a penalty for leaving food on your plate in order to curtail the overzealous diner (I would never know what this cost is since I would rather walk out with a mouthful of rice than pay some shameful fee while some waitress insinuated that I couldn't man up to a few more rolls).
With our first order we started with some Gyoza and Vegetable tempura. We also got some sashimi (Salmon, Tuna, White Tuna, Yellow Tail, Eel, and Snapper) and then some maki (Volcano roll, Rainbow Roll, Pop Up Roll, and Chicago Roll) as well as a couple of Spicy Tuna Hand Rolls. The Gyoza were alright, but the wrapper was kind of mushy. The veggie tempura was well done (and hot), but I was so hungry when it came out that I burned my mouth pretty badly. The sashimi was sub par. It came out a bit warmer and mushier than we would've liked. With the rolls, they all tasted pretty good with a healthy balance of fish over rice (which is usually a huge problem at all you can eat sushi restaurants, but not here). The problem was that they all had a relatively similar taste even with variable ingredients. I think that happens a lot when places forgo the use of seaweed wrapping (rice is much more filling, which is kind of the point for these guys). The highlight of this first order was the spicy tuna hand roll. First of all, a lot of these types of places won't give you hand rolls with the special deal, but they do which we really appreciated. The roll was evenly spread in that the fish wasn't all at the top while the rice was at the bottom. Also, it was well wrapped so that I was able to take a bite without the ingredients falling out the back end.
Our first order
The Veggie Tempura
The Spicy Tuna Hand Rolls
The waitress then informed us that they were going to close, and we should put in any last order right away. We got the Spider Roll, the Palatine Roll, and the Peppered Tuna appetizer. The peppered tuna was pretty well seasoned and came out as somewhat of a salad. The Spider roll had a really nice crunch to it, and even though I could barely fit another bite in my mouth, I was glad we ordered it.
The Peppered Tuna Appetizer
The Spider and Palatine Rolls
Considering how much I love Sushi Para in Palatine, I was a little let down with how things went at Sushi Para II. Maybe the fish quality was waning by the end of the night, but if they'd sat us when they said they would then we wouldn't have gotten the bottom of the barrel. I'd say that the sushi was average, the deal was good, and the service was poor. I'm giving Sushi Para II 2 out of 5 Pearls.