Hello…helllooo..helloooooo….Is anyone still left out there that reads this blog? It seriously has been way too long since I have posted any new content on Mastication Monologues, but such is the life of someone working on a 2nd Bachelor’s degree. Thankfully, the light at the end of the tunnel is near, and I am looking forward to some mental rest and relaxation. Thankfully, I won’t slack too much though because I have plenty of great reviews and food adventures to bring to you. Today’s review involves Tokoro Sushi in the Lincoln Square neighborhood.
My fiancee, then girlfriend, suggested we try the new eatery when it opened last year, and we have been back since. However, our first visit wasn’t the most enjoyable compared to the second time. There is mainly street parking and there are plenty of public transportation options for those of you rocking Ventra cards on the bus or L. The interior of Tokoro looks like any other sushi restaurant complete with bamboo prints and assorted Japanese tchotchkes. Fitting given the name of the restaurant in Japanese literally means “place”, i.e. this could be the interior of any of the other million, lower/middle rung Chicago sushi restaurants. They have a BYOB policy and a free corkage service which helps if you care for a glass of chardonnay to go with your unagi. Upon sitting down, we looked over their extensive sushi menu and saw most of the the typical Japanese restaurant offerings from lunch specials, soups, gyoza dumplings, sushi rolls, sashimi, and even hibachi offerings for diners searching for something a bit more substantial. Janice and I preferred to try the figurative treasure chest of sushi that lay before us in the menu, so we got the “all you can eat” sushi option for 20 bucks. Some people always wonder or straight up deny that the all you can eat option is a waste of money, but when you think about it, there is some method to the madness. Based on current trends of fishing, human consumption, and sushi demand from around the world, the price of fish, especially the fatty toro tuna, is only going to sky rocket. Therefore, placing a cap on your wallet but not on your stomach makes perfect sense to me especially if you were as hungry as we were. Then again, who knows if most sushi restaurants actually use the fish advertised on the menu. The results are often times surprising. Either way, that didn’t stop us from enjoying some good, not great sushi. Thankfully, we got a complimentary bowl of miso soup which I think should come free with each meal in Japanese restaurants because it is such a simple but satisfying soup to make. This traditional Japanese soup consists of a kelp/fish based broth and a soy based paste called, you guessed it, miso. I have never seen it anywhere, but there are also red and mixed color miso pastes used in miso soup. However, I greatly enjoy the white miso which is typically used in American Japanese restaurants because it is salty, savory, and has a taste that envelopes your entire body with a warmth that is enhanced with the soft cubes of tofu and slightly crunchy scallion strands. Definitely great for the cold Chicago winters. Once we drained our bowls, it was time to dive into our sushi. Side note: the service was absolutely terrible the first time around in terms of waiting for food, but thankfully they have improved their turnaround time from ordering to bringing out your order. Our first platter consisted of the crazy tuna roll, spicy tuna roll, and mountain roll.
The crazy tuna roll, the one closest to the wasabi in the picture above, consisted of the rice rolled around a tuna and pepper mix and topped with slices of tuna and a sriracha chili sauce. I didn’t find it to be too spicy, but it went down just fine. The mountain roll was next which left the biggest impression on me for this round. The inside was a cool cucumber and creamy avocado duo, but the real fire came from the spicy crab and spicy mayo on top that was festooned with a sprinkling of crunchy tempura crumbs. I liked it the most out of the three selections due to the contrast between the relatively understated interior and the more eye-catching exterior. Kind of a case of sushi superficiality, but this is a roll whose cover really makes the book a must read. The same could not be said about the spicy tuna roll which was like the crazy tuna roll minus the “crazy” part. I’m a big spicy food eater, and I didn’t think it lived up to its fiery moniker. So it was not a big draw for me. It was just a transition to the next sushi round we ordered. We amped it up with a volcano roll, a kiss on fire roll, another mountain roll, and got some actual sushi on the side with a tomago, shrimp, and a piece of yellowtail. I’ve already spoken about the mountain roll, but the volcano roll and kiss on fire roll were bolder than the first round participants. The kiss on fire roll (between the raw fish and fried roll) did actually bring some spice since below the tuna there was a raw jalapeno pepper resting in wait for our unsuspecting taste buds. I always like being kept off kilter sometimes during my dining experience, and I would recommend this roll for those who do like a bit of spice with their rolls. Then there was the volcano roll. Frying actual sushi is a crime against humanity, yet with rolls it kind of works. The light, rice flour based batter goes well with the delicately constructed rolls, especially one that was bulging with spicy tuna, crab, avocado, cream cheese, and eel sauce and spicy mayo streaks across the sliced roll. I think this was more of a luxury roll than a spice-centric entree due to the amount of ingredients that went into it. I’d still recommend it though if you’re looking for a bit more heft to your typical sushi roll. I did not have the tomago (egg) sushi, the shrimp, or the yellowfin, but Janice said they were all competently made but not mind-blowingly fresh/delicious.
So, if you’re looking for a solid, middle of the road sushi restaurant on the far northside of Chicago, roll on over to Sushi Tokoro!