Oh, the weather outside is frightful
The food inside is delightful
I’ve got so many places to go,
But there is snow, there is snow
There is snow
Queue scene of a flash mob in the middle of Michigan Avenue. All are bedecked in thick winter coats and fuzzy boots doing jazz hands dancing with swivel hips, swift kicks and splits, and plastic facial expressions of glee. Then there is snowfall, flashing lights in the trees and shrubbery, and me sitting at a local Japanese restaurant watching a bunch of performing characters while I gobble up some tasty sushi. Afterwards, I run out into the streets clicking my chopsticks like castanets. My timing is perfect and everyone is synchronized, the whole street blocked with dancers from Alvin Ailey and Garth Fagan dance troupes and a cartoon polar bear. The whole scene makes national news and people all over the world start dancing for no apparent reason. Well, there was no choreographed dancing, but the rest was true.
The New Year began rather uneventful — no horrific news reported, that is. Much like any other day, I had a growling belly that left me pontificating — first big word of the year — about what I wanted to eat. I satisfied myself with a little something from the refrigerator to tide myself over until I found an eatery worth going out into frigid weather. While Chicago is a metropolis in every way, the city has a way of acknowledging holidays proper. Establishments close doors so that the employees can spend time with their families. The streets are relatively quiet, with the exception of a few stragglers who love to race through red lights. And there is me, of course, out and about on the make searching for something to gnash away at for belly happiness.
Initially, I had a taste for some crepes. I had figured I would start the year off in a French mode, but the creperie I had intended to visit was closed for the holiday. With a heavy sigh, I checked for something in the area. Lo and behold, Japanese popped into my mind. I was already near Andersonville on Chicago’s North Side, so I drove to Tokyo Marina Japanese Cuisine at 5058 N. Clark Street. Considering the stretch of N. Clark Street where Tokyo Marina is teems with pedestrians during the summer, the cold temperatures and holiday kept most people at home or at someone else’s home. With the pick of a seat, I sat and ordered a rather pleasing meal. I started with a miso soup — the customary soup at Japanese restaurants. Thanks to my ravenous appetite, I ordered with some rice tea what I shall refer to as a flight of maki — soft shell maki, spicy ebi maki, and a spider roll. So delicious. So wonderful. So amazing. I could go on. And as comical as this may sound, those Mexicans working the sushi bar must have gone to Japan to train with the best because they wowed me with all the bliss they put on my plate.
One thing I will say about Tokyo Marina is that while presentation is not top on the list, the quality of the food is absolutely top. Granted the sushi comes out on a regular plate that your grandmother may have in her cupboard, the flavour and freshness of the sushi really stand out. The attentiveness of the wait staff, as well as the friendliness, also made a lasting first impression. I could have spent the first day of 2012 getting good use out of the food that was packed into my refrigerator, but I spent a good part of it well getting some of the best Japanese cuisine in the city. Not fancy, yet not disappointing, I am going to frequent this little gem to let those sushi chefs know how much I appreciate their workmanship at the sushi bar. It was enough for me to perform a one-man dance on Clark Street right outside the door. (Pause) Maybe not because it really was cold and snowing.