One of the great things about Instagram is that you get some great ideas for restaurants to try out. Recently, I saw a photo from a Japanese restaurant in a section of Oak Park, Illinois, that is not in the downtown area, but is on a stretch that is known as the Art District. New to me, since it had a few years when I was last in the area, is MORA Asian Kitchen at 201 Harrison Street. Quite spacious with a nice bar area, it is a plus for those who would like to delight themselves in several Japanese dishes, robata grill items, and sushi.
I sat at the bar on my first visit. To unwind after being in congested traffic, I had a MORA Mai Thai. Prepared with rum and accented with a twist of some lychee liqueur, it was what I needed for a hint of summer given our frosty temperatures. For a starter, I ordered a flight of three robata grill items. There was barbecued salmon prepared medium well so that it wasn’t the consistency of sushi tuna yet flaky and moist without any indication of dryness. The skewered grilled shrimp with lemongrass sauce were simply not enough because you fall in love with it immediately during the first bite. The same can be said for the lemongrass beef, of which I ordered medium and which fell off the skewer.
The basil chicken was more of a Thai dish and I enjoyed it still the same. Instead of ground chicken, it was work fried to a tenderness and moistness that made each bite a delight. Unlike a lot of Thai restaurants that load their dishes up with vegetables, that heavy handed approach was not applied here. There was a mushroom medley, jalapenos, and lemongrass sauce, none of which was overpowering in flavor or in quantity. The dish may be Thai inspired. It’s till worth every forkful regardless.
While I was tempted to skip ordering any kind of sushi, some of the options I had not seen on other sushi menus and they were too tempting to pass. I settled on having a Samurai since there were lobster and unagi sauce in the ingredients. With the addition of salmon on top and a spicy kick from jalapeno, this would easily be my go-to or my “in addition to” sushi roll for future visits.
I knew that I couldn’t go wrong with any light options from the dessert menu. I had a flight of mochi: mango, green tea, and strawberry. Served over a pomegranate compote that wasn’t syrupy, it was pure satisfaction. It was a perfect finale that did not result in a feeling of having overeaten, even though I had enjoyed several dishes earlier.
MORA Asian Kitchen stands out a little more than other Japanese restaurants in the Near West Suburbs area in that there are robata dishes available for ordering. There is a small selection of about six items, but it is still something many Japanese restaurants don’t have. It was very nice to see it on the menu here. There does not seem to be a Pan-Asian feel to the menu, albeit some of the hot plates seem to be inspired by Korean, Thai, and Chinese. Like many restaurants that I try initially, MORA Asian Kitchen will probably be one restaurant that I will frequent without any hesitation.