Thursday, January 31, 2013

Hamachi Sushi Bar

Location: 2801 W Howard
Cost: About $30 per person (but like all sushi restaurants it really depends on what you get)

There is a paucity of kosher restaurants in the Chicago land area. My kosher friends are always complaining about this and comparing us to NYC where they have tons of options. Back when I was hired to do some freelance stuff for CBS Chicago, they asked me to write a top 10 list of kosher places, and I reluctantly turned in a not so critical list of 7 places. Well things are moving in the right direction, and I was lucky enough to get invited to try out a new sushi place on the north side, Hamachi. I was joined by some friends of mine, Josh, Amanda, and Jodi.

Logistics
Hamachi is right on the corner of Howard and California. I thought it was a bit of a schlep, but I saw some Northwestern med students there who said they often make the trip from the city. The restaurant has a casual feel with a crowd of teenagers and businessmen sitting at adjacent tables. It takes on an 'L' shape around the sushi bar. We went on a Monday and the place was packed by the time we left. There's plenty of street parking nearby.

I thought it was a bit odd that there was no background music, but that might be from religious observances. The staff was friendly and quick. As we were invited, the meal was comped, but the prices are on par with most sushi places. Specialty rolls are in the low teens and normal rolls are sub $10.

The Food
Our meal started with a bowl of what was pretty standard miso soup, but given how cold it was outside, it really hit the spot. They also brought out an appetizer bento box. This included a variety of tempura, some salmon sashimi, and fried zucchini and eggplant topped with tuna tartare. It was a bit out there for sushi restaurant appetizers, but everything was clean with strong flavors. It was a creative way to get the ball rolling.

The Salmon Sashimi

 The Zucchini Tempura

 The Deep Fried Rice

The Miso Soup

After that, they brought out a huge platter featuring some of their better rolls and sashimi. Starting with the sashimi, they had multiple types of both tuna and salmon. The seared and pepper crusted tuna and the smoked salmon were unique and flavorful. Our rolls included the Blue Man Group, the Hamachi Dragon, and the Black Dragon. Although Jodi was afraid of the decorative blue crunch on the Blue Man Group, the white tuna came through strongly. The black dragon was sweet, and the taste of the faux shrimp wasn't too far off. The hamachi dragon packed a kick from the jalapeno mayo. I think it's worth pointing out, that although they had quite a bit of topping and eccentricity, it was much more controlled than in my last review when I was so harshly critical of Sushi Kushi.

The Sushi Platter

 The Blue Man Group

 The Black Dragon

 More Salmon Sashimi

 The Tuna Sashimi

For dessert we had a tempura ice cream dish. It was what I'd like to think the Japanese version of a funnel cake would be. Given that most sushi restaurants serve things like pineapple for dessert, I never go in thinking that I'll have some interesting ice cream dish, but this was a pleasant surprise.

The Tempura Ice Cream

Overall
I was excited to find a sushi restaurant that holds up to if not exceeds many of its non-kosher contemporaries. The prices were reasonable, the creativity was within reason, and the fish was high quality. Go check it out for yourself.

Hamachi Sushi Bar  on Urbanspoon

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