Imagine a restaurant in the throes of chaos. There are ninjas jumping out of the kitchen, flying through the air, slicing patrons’ chopsticks in half. A petite, elderly woman is beating up a rude, burly man who won’t chew with his mouth closed and who has been harassing a table of fashion models about picking at their food. The hostess is crouched under a table swapping phone numbers with a jock who doesn’t want his coif messed up in the melee. I am sitting with my friend, beckoning for another menu and casually discussing how good the sushi is — occasionally putting a karate chop to the neck of whatever idiot falls across our table. After giving a line about how good the food is at the restaurant, the actress/manager bops some character on the head with a wok and then say, “Come to New Tokyo. You won’t experience a more exciting restaurant.” That would be a great advertisement for the restaurant we went to for sushi. Don’t you agree? I think I will pitch that as a suggestion.
New Tokyo in Chicago’s Lakeview at 3139 North Broadway Street was the spot for the restaurant jaunt. At the recommendation of a friend who is a double agent — Ph.D. chemist by day, closet chef by night who can give any restaurant a run for its money — my restaurant adventurous friend and I found ourselves sampling some of the best sushi I’ve had since my stints in San Francisco, Vancouver, Tokyo, and Hiroshima. [As to the double agent, I shall have to do an editorial review about a spread at a certain art show. People are still arguing me down that this woman owns her own restaurant — not yet, though. Smile.] New Tokyo is a small and quaint Japanese restaurant with seating so close that you practically have conversation with the individuals sitting next to and immediately behind you. Add Japanese soap operas on a flat-screen television and lounge music — Blue Six, Nicola Conte, Rosalia de Souza, and Les Hommes to name a few — to the mix, and you have a regular hangout spot. I can’t speak for anyone else, but it will become a hangout spot for me. Everyone working there will know me by first name because I will become a constant patron. They will greet me in their native tongues, and conveniently forget to charge me for some item I’ve ordered.
I shall just list out the glorious, mouth-watering, yummical, “touch my food and die” good stuff that we had. The photos below are just shots of the first round of food that we ordered. Without making my friend and me sound like little pigs in a fortified brick restaurant that the big bad wolf can’t blow down, we’ll just say that we ordered enough to overshadow any concerns about any wolf wanting to waste his breath blowing on anything.
|Edame||Boiled snap beans — I remember when as a child I used to help my grandparents shell snap beans. That’s not to say that I wanted to eat them afterwards, but it was the “in” thing to do when I wanted a personal cake or some home made cookies.|
|Shrimp Sumai||Steamed Japanese shrimp dumplings — Dipped in soy sauce doctored up with a little wasabi, these morsels went before I could finish talking about my intention to purchase a “danger” motorcycle for my birthday in April of next year. Vroom! I mean, yummy!|
|Ebi||Shrimp — These cocktail shrimps on rice are addictive. Other than in some true New Orleans gumbo, it’s straight ebi sushi for me unless I’m frying some in my cultural batter.|
|Unagi||Fresh water eel — You’d never think that something slithering through the water could be so good. The salt water eel is one to avoid, but the unagi was so good that I banged on the table and asked for more. Actually, I just requested a menu and ordered some more.|
|Amaebi||Sweet shrimp — You can never get enough of too much shrimp and sweet shrimp can bring about convulsions from being so damn good.|
|Tamago||Sweet egg — My cholesterol level could sky-rocket easily if I were to make Japanese sushi my main staple. No, I would just continue running my usual three miles every morning. This stuff is outrageously delicious.|
|Spicy Tekka||Spicy tuna roll — These bad boys had a bite to them, but my friend’s bite and mine were greater.|
|Sweet Maki||Sweet potato tempura roll — Who says that sweet potatoes are only good as yams, in sweet potato pies, in sweet potato cakes, or as mashed potatoes?|
|Hot French Spider Roll||Spicy spider and shrimp tempura with unagi wrap and chilli masago — Nothing so ugly should taste so good. But it does.|
|Hamachi Loin||Yellowtail loin – The only thing I can say about this sushi dish is, “Oh my God!” I thought the ebi and the hot French spider roll were addictive. The yellowtail is up there on my Top 5 sushi recommendations.|
|Tako||Octopus — Fear Factor? Nope. We didn’t grimace or have an embarrassing moment after downing this. It’s not so much an acquired taste as the rubbery texture takes getting used to. If you’ve had calamari at any restaurants, then you can pass this Fear Factor eating session.|
I tell you, I wish that I could pick lottery numbers the way we have been picking excellent restaurants. Then again, it would help if I were to actually purchase a lottery ticket and try my hand at picking the winning numbers. The pros for New Tokyo are that the food is good and that you will want to keep going back. Let’s be real; you will go back. For those who are extremely claustrophobic or don’t like crowds, being in close quarters with others partaking of great food and gripping the table to keep from screaming because everything is so yummy, New Tokyo may not be for you. While my friend and I only had sushi, the menu does have other wonderful eats like teriyaki chicken and hibachi goodies. [There was no shrimp fried rice on the menu. That’s Chinese cuisine.] The other downside is the service is linear — the chefs prepare the orders as they come in — so food does not come out five minutes immediately after you place your order. You won’t be sorry for the wait, though. For the price-conscious person in you, you will be pleasantly surprised to know that the tab may not be as outrageous as you would think for a Japanese restaurant specializing in sushi, especially on Chicago’s North Side. I will have to grab my ninja outfit from my days of martial arts training and go back in true style. Oops. Wait! I can’t fit that outfit any more. I guess I will just have to wear my usual jeans that I can unbutton when the belly starts expanding.