07 September 2008

Sushi dinner at Tsunami, Chicago

An overnight trip to Chicago provided me with an opportunity to have dinner with my daughter. It actually was the day after her one-year wedding anniversary. Regrettably, her husband had to work that evening, so he could not join us.

As I considered where to eat, I thought about picking a place that I know my wife wouldn’t like. So I suggested sushi. A quick check in Open Table revealed that Tsunami is located less than a block from Tovah’s apartment. She likes sushi and was eager to try it, so I made the reservation.

We had a 7 p.m. reservation on a Wednesday night. It wasn’t very busy when we arrived. Maybe it was because if was just after the Labor Day weekend.

We were seated in the upstairs dining area near the bar. We liked the ambiance upstairs better than downstairs, although the dining area in the front of the restaurant leading out to the patio also had a nice atmosphere.

Since I don’t eat sushi very often, I knew I’d need help, and our server was very accommodating. First of all, I asked for advice on sake. Tsumani has a nice selection and quite a wide price range. They offer a tasting flight – two-ounce samples of three different varieties. That’s what I ordered. The flight I chose had momokawa silver dry, dewazakura “green ridge” and wakatake onigoroshi. I actually liked the momokawa the best, even though it was the least expensive of the three.

I also needed an explanation of nigiri and maki. Again, our server was most helpful. He explained the nigiri is fish or seafood over a mound of sticky rice while maki is a roll that contains several ingredients.

Tsunami’s menu lists several ‘maki mono’ rolls and then a section of specialty rolls. We started with one of the specialty makis – sumo maki. It was tempura fried shrimp rolled with cream cheese, avocado, and spicy sauces. That was followed by a fairly plain tuna maki. To tell you the truth, I kind of liked the plain one better because the more complicated, specialty maki had too many flavors competing with each other.

At the same time we ordered our second maki, I decided to try a nigiri. I had una (sea urchin) with a quail egg. For me, this was the only real disappointment of the meal. I’ve never eaten sea urchin before, and I didn’t think that it had much flavor.

We concluded with a final specialty spider maki that included soft-shell crab, avocado, cucumber, and spicy sauces. It was very good.

As I’ve already noted, I don’t eat sushi too often. The last time I had it, it was with my son in Minneapolis, at a place called Nami. I have to say I liked Nami better. To refresh my memory, I looked at the menu online. It has many of the same kinds of sushi as Tsunami, but my recollection is that I liked them better. It also wasn’t as expensive. Tsunami was not outrageous, but I think that Nami was a better value. Lastly, while the ambiance at Tsunami was not uncomfortable, Nami felt more like an authentic Japanese sushi bar. Tsunami had more of a feel of a hot spot for young people, and when you look at their photo gallery online, it sort of confirms that impression.

But these are mere quibbles. We had a good meal, and it was fun being with my daughter for the evening. And I would recommend Tsunami for other diners, at least until I have a chance to try more Chicago sushi bars.

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