Izakaya Mita, Sashimi and Robata

During my last restaurant outing, I was in Bucktown enjoying some French food. Next to the French restaurant is a Japanese restaurant named Izakaya Mita at 1960 N. Damen Avenue. Looking in from the outside, there was an intimate feeling about the restaurant that I thought would make it ideal for checking out, that being there would be no extreme crowds. Well, leave it up to me to go on a Friday night and experience a crowd. Anyone who has gone will agree that there is a good reason for the congestion.

Sake

Sake

Seaweed

Seaweed

On the evening that I went, I had come off of a ridiculously nerve-grating day at work. The best way I figured I could null the desire to scream at the top of my lungs was to imbibe a flight of sake. My server was grandtastic — new word of the day — coming up with recommendations and explaining where they were produced, the ingredients in the liquid recipe, what made them spectacular, and pairing them with the dishes I ordered. For example, I had a refreshing sake that went very well with a small bowl of spicy seaweed.

Tuna Sashimi

Tuna Sashimi

There was an inquiry of whether I would like to sample some raw seafood. This gave me the indication that sashimi was perhaps on the offering. It was. I had some meaty tuna sashimi with another glass of sake. For those who may want to indulge this full coloured, mouth-watering lovely should note that it is a small plate with four succulent slices of resh tuna. It is still a splendid order as a small plate.

Salmon Sashimi

Salmon Sashimi

The same can be said of the salmon, which I had with my third sake option. Salmon is one dish that I never tire of eating. When it is cooked such that it is tender and flaky, complaining is never an option. Having it sashimi style has now gotten me addicted to enjoying it before being seared by a flame. There was nothing stringy, fishy, tough, or chewy about the salmon. If it had come on a larger plate as a larger portion, I would have been even happier than I was with it as a small plate option.

Mushrooms

Mushrooms

By the time I was finishing the salmon sashimi, my sister had arrived. That meant more food. It did not mean more sake. While she ordered some dishes and cocktails, the latter to take her mind off having had a mad week at work, I ordered some mushrooms for sharing. Grilled to tenderness and accented with a light sauce, we devoured these fresh mushrooms and noticed that they had the flavour of the garden variety that had not been rushed in growing. There was a reminiscent moment of when we had tasted mushrooms at a favourite sushi and robata grill restaurant named Yuzu in Chicago’s West Town neighbourhood.

Beef Tenderloin, Salad

Beef Tenderloin, Salad

Another shared dish was beef tenderloin over small salad. Neither one of us is a fan of rare or medium rare meat. Imagine both of our surprises when we had gobbled these rare morsels to completion. There were no overpowering herbs and spices in the recipe, so there was enough taste in whatever marinade the chef used to prepare the meat. Nothing was overcompensated and that may have been why it was easier for us to navigate the raw meat without thinking much about it, until we had gone around the plate sopping up the last bit of juice with the lettuce.

Green Tea Mochi Balls

We sat and caught up with other about the week for several minutes before ordering light sweets and green tea. My sister had green tea cheesecake while I had three green tea mochi balls. Not only are mochi balls a swell palate cleanser, but they are also light on the stomach after a hearty meal. The green tea was definitely good for digestion after all we had eaten. This was loose leaf green tea, too, so I was thoroughly content.

Green Tea

Green Tea

Izakaya Mita is not a large sushi bar, but it is most definitely a fan favourite for a lot of individuals. It may be that the Wednesday I went to the French restaurant was indicative of a lighter night. Fridays may be the beginning day of the weekend when everyone wants to enjoy fun, excitement, fellowship, and good food way from home. With this being my first visit, the one server who gave us recommendations was the only indication I have for superb service. I don’t have to be redundant and say ad nauseam that the food is worthy. What I will say is that one may find plenty pretentious Japanese sushi, yakitori, and robata restaurants in the metropolitan Chicago area. Izakaya Mita doesn’t pretend. They’re just damn good.

Izakaya Mita Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Nia — Mediterranean, Tapas Style

Nia

Two years ago a friend surprised me by taking me to a restaurant that she had not heard me talk about. She had mentioned that it was in the West Loop. Chicago’s West Loop is one area that had a rapid growth spurt, resulting in high-priced condominiums, expensive townhouses, bars that fill up quickly, and some nice restaurants. We went to Nia at 803 W. Randolph Street for some Mediterranean food. Because the dining experience was very satisfying then, I made a note to myself to visit again after work so that I could sample some more offerings from the menu.

Being a short distance from where I work, I decided to brave the Chicago wind for the few blocks it took me to walk to Nia. With my New York City stride, I was there in no time, coat off, gloves put away, menu in hand, and had an appetite that I needed to deal with without delay. One thing I remembered about Nia was that the menu was mostly of small plates. Nevertheless, I figured I would do well to order a few items to put a smile on my face and not so much that I would find myself fighting sleep thereafter.

Nia, Collage

Click to see larger photos in Flickr album

 

With the evening being what I called a “school night,” I had cranberry juice instead of a spirit or a cocktail. For starters, I ordered a plate of hummus with pita. Given this was a “small plate,” they didn’t skimp on the servings. This came with roasted garlic, a red pepper coulis, and a dollop of horseradish cream. I mixed it all up and worked that pita on the plate until there was a smear of hummus left. I don’t think I need to tell you that I liked it “that” much.

My next course consisted of wild mushrooms with truffle oil. Truffles are all the rage, it seems, and anything accented with its oil is a dish sent from heaven — or hell if you are “that” wicked. I married this dish with a plate of jumbo garlic shrimp in a lemon butter sauce. Although the four shrimp looked manageable, by the time I had finished the mushrooms and the shrimp, I forced myself to slow down so not to deprive myself of dessert. I did, however, request some extra pita so that I could get the last remnants of truffle oil and the lemon butter sauce. It would have been a crime to let any of that go to waste.

My dessert course left me humming, evident from the neighbouring stares I received. The bread pudding came drizzled with a caramel sauce and topped with a scoop of vanilla ice cream that I swear had saffron in it. If that was the case, then it was not ice cream from the frozen section at the local market. I completed my dessert option with a cup of coffee and cream. Now, I am not a coffee snob, but I know when a French press has been used. The coffee is simply perfect and this was the case with the cup of delight I had with the bread pudding.

For the duration that I sat at Nia, there was a constant flow of patrons coming in and I noticed that turnover was low. That was an indication that people come to enjoy themselves. It’s a great spot for a date. There is the mood lighting — or rather dim lighting. Even those who dine solo at the bar find themselves engaged in conversation with others. The volume gets loud as more customers show up, though. With this being my second visit, I was happy as I teetered from the restaurant. The first time was good. This time was better. I wonder if the third time will be a charm. Well, there is only one way to find out.

Nia Mediterranean on Urbanspoon

Ready, Freddy’s

Freddy's Pizza and Grocery

I have been on a serious Italian kick as of late, so a friend had recommended a certain Italian grocery store/restaurant in Cicero, Illinois. Since it is not on any main road where there is a long list of eateries from which to choose, it was one of those holes in the wall that I had missed whenever I passed down the road where it is located. I figured I would try it out since it was a small family owned place and you certainly get some of the best food from those kinds of establishments. After constant prefaces of the place not being chic-chic, it was apparent that after five years of knowing me, my friend doesn’t realize that Caribbean stock care far less about how a restaurant looks because we are strictly about whether the food warrants an applause.

Italian Bread

Italian Bread

Ready? Set? And off we went to Freddy’s at 1600 S. 61St Avenue in Cicero. On entry, you walk into a grocery store where you can purchase your share of Italian products for all of your Italian recipes. Then you approach the counter where you are greeted with cooked meats, pastas, antipastas, salads, and a very inviting staff. One thing that was noticeable was that there is apparently a constant set of regular customers who come in. That becomes evident when everyone at Freddy’s would greet certain customers by first name or simply start dishing up food without the customers having to say what it was they wanted. Despite the long lines — and believe me when I say that they get to be long — those who are behind the counter don’t rush you, as they answer all questions you have about what they have on their display. We of Caribbean makeup are accustomed to that kind of service.

Mediterranean Salad

Mediterranean Salad

My friend and I ordered Mediterranean salad. Most would consider it to be a house salad because of the lettuce and tomatoes. But there were black olives and feta cheese added, and topped with a vinaigrette. Sure it may be pedestrian to most, but once you bite into the lettuce and the tomatoes, you start to wonder if the produce had come from a local garden, not from a bag snatched off the shelf at the nearby market. With the complimentary loaf of Italian bread, I checked this off as a “Good Start.”

Cheese Ravioli in Vodka Sauce

Cheese Ravioli in Vodka Sauce

The homemade cheese ravioli with vodka sauce was the light to my fuse. It took me years to start indulging ravioli because having eaten Chef Boy-Ardee ravioli as a child, there was something in my early adult life that had told me ravioli was a work of the devil. After years of living in Chicago and divining myself on some real Italian food, ravioli had worked itself in to my diet. The cheese ravioli at Freddy’s was a prime example of why I love the menu item so much. The vodka sauce was neither bland, nor salty, nor acrid. Thinking that the substantial amount of ravioli piled up on the plate would feed into a noticeable cha-ching once things were rung up at the register, I was rather shocked to discovered that the price was way less than what I had expected. Full of flavour but not with a high charge accordingly, I was way past happy.

Chicken Piccata

Chicken Piccata

We went a notch up with a plate of chicken piccata. I like fish in a lemon base, but not my chicken per se. This dish changed it all. I think part of the problem with chicken piccata I have had in the past was that it seemed the chicken was cooked in pure lemon juice without any other herbs and spices. I was expecting to have my eyes scrunched and the bite of lemon nipping at the back of my jaw. That was not the case. The basil, the sauce, and bloom in each bite, I requested another loaf of bread and used it to sop the sauce. There was no reason to sit around like a charm school student when such a tender piece of chicken was as appetizing as it was. Defeat was nearing but not absolute, for we dealt a wonderful blow to the plate of chicken masala that was buried under fresh, plump mushrooms. I don’t know how they prepare the chicken at Freddy’s but it is ridiculously juicy and so tender you could liken slicing it to cutting a cloud. Again, I got more bread so that I could go around the plate to sop up the worthy gravy.

Chicken Marsala

Chicken Marsala

If you go to Freddy’s, I highly recommend finding out when they open. GO THEN. They are incredibly good at the service and the food that they prepare. The wait is worth it, but you may want to start indulging immediately rather than wait. Freddy’s has a cash-only policy, so keep that in mind. I did not get to survey the full lay of the small grocery store to see what all they had on their shelves. Much like a lot of small ethnic grocery stores, the products are of a quality to make your recipes pop more than they would if you were to buy the same products from a big box grocery store.  If I could force myself to get out of bed earlier on Saturdays, I would rush down to Cicero so that I am at Freddy’s when the door opens. At some point I will and I will lick my fingers like we Caribbean people do when we feast on food that we like.

Freddy's Pizzeria on Urbanspoon Freddy's Pizzeria on Foodio54

Lights, Camera, Eat

I have often wondered what it would be like to have camera appeal such that I could do interviews of chefs, cooks, managers, and owners of restaurants. Alas, I don’t. But I do have a bit of creativity and I think I may start to bring a bit of that to Chicago Alphabet Soup. While I am abroad for the month of September, I may ponder some ideas to put into video. The whole photography aspect of the food journal works well and it’s actually better since I really, really needed to learn how to use the expensive cameras that I had bought. There was absolutely no reason to have paid thousands of dollars for equipment that I used in automatic mode only. I may not be a “Food Magazine” photographer, but I am not the point-and-click smiley face that I was when I first started penning Chicago Alphabet Soup.

Well, the video below is one that I did at home. This is me pretending to have no idea what I want to eat for dinner and having such a magical touch, I create a dish on the fly. If only that could happen in real life. Wishful thinking will get me nowhere. However, a camera with video features and editing software will get me a humorous clip or two to post of my food adventures. The dish that I create in this video is an Algerian dish of chicken kabob over potatoes, mushrooms, and onions.

One other thing I did recently was try my hand at making a pineapple sorbet. Ice cream, gelato, and frozen custard have desserts that I have had much success making — aside from baking cakes and cookies. A friend, who is starting to introduce more vegan recipes into her diet, had cooked a spaghetti squash arrabbiata and I brought an almond vegan cake and pineapple sorbet. Now, the first time baking or making a dessert always gives me the willies, so imagine my surprise when the cake and the sorbet had come out better than expected. If it were not for me getting ready to go away for holiday, I would have made more sorbet. I had pondered a ginger mango, lemon, or pineapple again. I will have to save up those ideas for my return.

Pineapple Sorbet

Pineapple Sorbet

In the meantime, enjoy my teaser video and photo of frozen experimentation from my freezer. And if you start hearing voices in your head, it may not be voices, but your growling belly. Make a reservation at one of the restaurants I’ve posted and take your appetite to indulge something from someone’s kitchen.

I Come From Another World

HarvestBerwyn, Illinois, is surprisingly becoming a suburb for those who have no compunction about indulging tasty food. A former colleague who lives in Berwyn has introduced me to a few restaurants that have shown themselves worthy of repeat visits. There supposedly was a feature on television for a restaurant that is out of this world. Autre Monde, translated as “another world,” and at 6727 Roosevelt Road, was touted as a must-go-to eatery for those whose palates enjoy cuisine with a Mediterranean flair. My former colleague had gone to the restaurant and had spoken to how you cannot describe the taste — you simply had to experience it. Well, that was all I needed to hear to know that I wanted to be transported to a another world where people relished at aromas that tickled the noses and flavours that danced about the tongue like lords a leaping.

Autre Monde has a look and feel that is rather common among a lot of lounges in the immediate West Loop and Near North Side sections of Chicago. The lighting is dim, giving a muted orange glow. Everyone is glamorous, almost to the point where you wonder if it hurts to be so beautiful. The atmosphere is intimate. It is always recommended that you make reservations well in advance for the assurance of a seat and you arrive for the time that you have made the reservations, lest you relinquish your seat. The restaurant fills quickly. Of course, the service is outstanding and they will accommodate you if you visit without a reservation. But once you are there, be prepared for one of the best dining experiences of your life and a recognition that Chicago suburbs are, per the current urban lingo, on and popping.

Hummus and Fava Beans SpreadHaving the Christmas season upon us, my former colleague and I were in a festive mood. This was going to be a gathering before I departed to spend Christmas with my family and she to spend it with hers. With the restaurant filled, bearing others who came with co-workers and other friends dancing and doing things a notch short of embarrassing, we figured we would really get started with something from the drink menu. There is a drink called Harvest that is nothing short of autumn in a glass. I never would have imagined that whiskey and cider would be a great combination. Add a dash of cinnamon and you have a winning drink. Because we had saved our appetites for Autre Monde, we were careful not to imbibe the Harvest as though we had been crawling across the desert and were ridiculously thirsty. We tempered ourselves and placed our orders to cater to our degustation wants.

The first course we opted to sample was a plate of hummus and fava beans. There is no reason to ever go to a Mediterranean restaurant and not order any hummus. It is a staple in the Mediterranean diet and with some pita bread, you can fall in love with those creamed chickpeas, olive oil, and spices. Now, add fava beans to the mix and this was nothing short of Silence of the Gino, Mediterranean style. I have had fava beans with fish, chicken, pork, and in a complete vegetarian meal. I have even had them with a Chianti. Having it prepared as a spread was a new experience and one that I enjoyed more than I can put into words. It may be that it was something completely different to my palate. It may be that it was really that delicious. We’re not talking a dish that was heavy-handed with spices enough to be the glaring complete antithesis of a boring plate. It was a perfect start.

Mussels au Sete
Then we moved on to Mussels au Sete. I wanted muscles. I got some now. My arms are noticeably larger than they were several months ago. But I wanted mussels that tasted award winning in a savoury gravy. Lucky for me, I was already at Autre Monde and was happily obliged. It had to be the light gravy that made the mussels have an unforgettable taste. Heavy enough on the garlic but not enough to send a vampire running back to his coffin, my former colleague and I dipped the complementary toast in the sauce and devoured the delicate mussels with a tempered hunger. After all, we had more in mind to sample.

Moroccan Chicken WingsThe third menu item was one we saw going to other tables. The patrons were baring their teeth, frowning, and gnashing away with an animal intensity that made Sally in “When Harry Met Sally” come across rather tame in her mockery during the famous restaurant scene. Moroccan chicken wings landed on our plates and we topped them with cucumber yoghurt and a light pepper syrup. The combination of cool and hot was not something that my dining companion and I were going for but mixing the cucumber yoghurt and the pepper syrup really made the chicken wings scream. Even without adding the yoghurt and syrup, the wings had a flavour that held its own. The crust on the wings was delicate, nothing like the harsh crunch that you get on most fried chicken and definitely not a case of the Kentucky Fried Chicken sort, where the batter is almost feathery. We were contemplating ordering more of the wings, but that would have taken away from the degustation sampling we had planned. We were happy to have bared our teeth, frowned, and gnashed away on the wings that we had the way everyone else had.

Fontina and Wild Mushroom FlatbreadWe then graduated to fontina and wild mushroom flatbread. The whole concept of flatbread is all the rage in Chicago and has been for years. There are restaurants that make sandwiches with flatbread. Some pizzerias use flatbread as crust. There are even a few speciality cafés that serve it with dips and spreads. But when it is done right, it is an absolute showcase of talent. Looking at the fontina and wild mushroom flatbread, one would think it was pedestrian fare. It is anything but plain. The recipe apparently was well-balanced enough that the herbs and spices were present without overpowering the fontina cheese and the mushrooms. And let me not miss expressing the fact that you could taste the mushrooms, not simply chew them and know that they were on the flatbread.

Because the fontina and mushroom flatbread was so amazing, we wanted one more flatbread. An option was the spicy duck sausage flatbread. We immediately flagged this flatbread as a mandatory reason for a future repeat visit. Sun-dried tomatoes and seasoned duck sausage on flavourful cheese. It also found its way between our fingers, rising up from the plate, up towards our mouths where it entered and our teeth went to work. Smiles. Smiles as though we were on Fantasy Island. But it was no fantasy. If I had to choose between Chicago style pizza, Brooklyn style pizza, and the spicy duck sausage flatbread, Autre Monde would be happy to know that their little belly happy menu item would win.

Spicy Duck Sausage FlatbreadFor the finishing touch, we had pot de crème. Many people seek a pot of gold. If I want happiness, I only need the chocolatety hazelnut flavour of pot de crème to paint my face with a smile. So delicious it was that we intentionally took almost half an hour to eat all of it. There was no reason for us to rush through such a perfect dessert. The hazelnut influence in the chocolate custard had the right ratio to let you know that there was the presence of hazelnut but not such that it competed with the chocolate. After all, there were shavings of hazelnut on top with the homemade whipped cream. There could not have been a more fitting sweet.

Pot de CremeAutre Monde is, to put it succinctly, out of this world. For Berwyn to be such a homey suburb, you would never think that a restaurant with high-end atmosphere and top billing cuisine would be there. A few years ago, Berwyn was primarily a walk-up café haven where you were guaranteed some authenticity in the food you ate. The addition of Autre Monde and a few other restaurants will eventually have Berwyn filled with foodies seeking their Holy Grails of dining experiences. The price is commensurate with the quality of the output. The first time I went to Autre Monde, I did not have my camera and wished that I did. There was no way I was leaving home the second time around sans my toy to capture the culinary impressions. Actually, I wished that I had a camcorder to record my thousand faces of happiness as I ate. While I was able to capture the menu items that my former colleague and I had, and a picture is worth a thousand words, you will find that there are a thousand ways to express bliss for something delicious from another world.

Autre Monde Cafe on Urbanspoon

Yakitori Meets Logan Square

One of the great things about living in an up and coming neighbourhood is that you get to see all of the changes that take place. New clothing boutiques. New coffee shops. Boulangeries. Food markets. A yakitori. When I am not driving, I take advantage of public transportation and I can see many businesses pass before me. One that caught my eye was in an area that once housed a once-defunct bar that seems to have become a part of the growth in my neighbourhood of Logan Square. What was once a dive is now a high-end boutique restaurant that panders to the yakitori style of cooking. Lucky for me 2853 N. Kedzie Avenue is not far from where I live, which means that Yusho is now on my list of restaurants in my vicinity to visit frequently.

Pisco Punch

Common with many boutique restaurants, you experience ambience and some rather nice boutique jazz or lounge music that can be rather hypnotic. Yusho is a restaurant for a date or for meeting friends. For me, it was a chance to see if this addition to the Logan Square neighbourhood will warrant several encores. Perusing the menu, I started with a pisco punch. Something that I could certainly see myself indulging on a hot summer day, the glass of Don Cesar special pisco, sencha, pineapple, and umeboshi gomme syrup, and garnished with lemon, gave an indication that the bartender on staff deserved an applause. Usually when drinks are well-balanced, the flavour is flat. Not that I am a beverage guru — or snob — but it was easy to tell which ingredients made the liquid concoction without any of them being tempered or overpowering. Mind you, I had come to this conclusion after about four sips, after which it was time for me to give my first round of orders.

Chicken Skin

For starters, I let go of my purist food wagon and rolled around in the dirt, muck, mire, spices, seasoning, and bliss. As I am not one for eating fried foods, having given that up years ago to avoid my doctor shaking her head because of heightened blood pressure, I cannot say where the voice came from that requested fried chicken skin. Sure enough, that was what came to the table. Reminiscent of wafers served in Indian restaurants as appetizers, but clearly not wafers, the thin chicken skin had a smooth texture, not the bubbly, crispy coating that you see on chicken that had been swimming around in hot grease. And, no, it was nothing like the awful pork rind skins that you buy at the market or at gas stations. Brushed with Japanese mustard, garlic, and togarashi, the pescatarian in me had not one regret for polishing off the skins. I was off to the great start with just the cup of doctored-up skins and wondered what else I could request to come to the table to best the first order.

Grilled Oyster

Second to the table was another item that I have avoided for over forty years — oysters. Granted these were not the oysters that you dip in hot sauce and lemon before letting them slide down your throat, that being they were grilled oysters, they were oysters nevertheless. Grilled and accented in apple cider, sake, and tapioca, I said to myself, “Bottoms up,” and swallowed what was nothing akin to the deterrent I have seen people indulging in numerous seafood restaurants. The taste did not leap about in my mouth, but I smiled anyway now knowing that I can enjoy grilled oysters. Well, I had to admit that although this was my first experience eating oysters and finding satisfaction in it, other restaurants may send something to the table to murder my new-found love.

Eel

For my third course, I rolled my eyes about and fought the urge to stand and shout before throwing a dish on the floor. The eel with brandade, hominy, and wasabi mustard was so delicious that had I not been a prude I would have shown a side of myself in the restaurant that would have had me removed. By the third bite, I was on my cell phone looking for a recipe. I had to have more and in larger quantities. What sat before me shortly before I let out a muted whimper because I had finished it and wanted some more to savour was a tease. It was wrong. The bowl of pleasure should have been tasteless, rubbery, disgusting. But it was anything but that and I had pondered ordering the dish again. Instead, I heaved a heavy sigh and made plans to walk back to the restaurant in a few weeks for more.

Chicken Thigh

The first yakitori dish that I feasted on was chicken thigh. However, looking at it would have most rabid rural food critics arguing that I had skewered meatballs. The chicken had been prepared as meatballs with Anaheim peppers, basil, and topped with savoy cabbage. Such beautiful presentation of the three meatballs on a skewer only to be messed up with me gnashing away at the tender, succulent, addictive meat with proper etiquette. Talk about satisfying to the palate. Talk about meatballs being a thrill to the taste buds without being doused in some gravy. Talk about a recipe because I would be interested in trying this in my kitchen — at least once. By now I had conceded that I will be regular at Yusho.

Sea Urchin

And just when I thought that I could not have anything sitting before me taste better than what I had eaten already, the sea urchin changed my mind. Wrapped in a crispy pastry with nori, shiso, and Buddha’s hand, I logged on to Facebook and posted that I am indeed a food addict. The anise flavouring from the shiso gave an accent to the sea urchin that would have otherwise left the sea urchin simply palatable as opposed to its incredibly luring taste. The marriage of the shiso spice and the citrus and ginger flavouring of the Buddha’s hand had me wanting to go to the kitchen and bow before the chef. While the shiso and Buddha’s hand are perfect complements, the seasoning still allowed the sea urchin to have the spotlight. And that was fine, as I showed the urchin just how much of a star it was in my show.

Two Tribes

Now right about now is when I would write that I was done, stuffed, ready for a nap. But the portions at Yusho are taste size, which meant I was ready for more action. Rather than launching into another appetizing dish, I settled for a moment to collect my thoughts with regards to what else I would sample. While waiting a while I ordered another drink from the bar. This time I wanted to try something with a whisky base to it, recalling how much I prefer a scotch or a whiskey anyway. What to my wondering surprise should I espy a drink called Two Tribes. Concocted of redemption rye, palm sugar, cardamaro, and barrel-aged stone fruit bitters, whiskey sour and amaretto sour quickly became passé in my book. Next time I shall order the drink neat and nurse it until closing. Okay, perhaps not until closing, but I shall enjoy it in the same fashion that I enjoyed the Two Tribes this evening.

Maitake Mushroom

Having given myself a bit of a respite, I was ready to continue. Why does it sound like a hiking expedition? I have no idea, but the bowl of maitake mushrooms with egg vinaigrette and dashi gelée made the wait worthwhile. One thing I will say as a footnote is that I am not a fan of my eggs becoming Olympians and running all over the place once you get started on them. There is one other restaurant in Chicago that had changed my mind and the egg vinaigrette at Yusho has really made me completely accept that runny eggs can be a culinary magnet when seasoned delightfully. The mushrooms held their own, but once I had broken the egg and mixed it all together, my prudish sensibilities had long taken leave and I was left to enjoy every dish that came to the table without complaint.

Gobo Root

Sticking with a vegetarian option, I went down the exotic path — not that I had not been doing that all along. I had never had gobo root and wondered what it tasted like. One of the good things about being experimental and curious about certain foods — except for Chinese street food — I had decided to order something very much in a whim manner. This dish came with sesame, Asian pear slices, and persimmon. How would I describe the texture of gobo root? I would say that it is like sugar cane without the strands. How would I describe the taste? I would liken it to artichoke, but with a bit of a sweet accent to it. How would I describe my first dining experience eating gobo root? I cringed. I winced. I pouted. I wanted more and having finished the main course with the accompaniments, I was in complete happy mode because everything to this point was outstanding. You never want the moment to end.

Chicken Breast

But all good things must come to an end. For me, it came with a climax. Let me put that in perspective. The final dish was a yakitori of chicken breast with gobo root, quince, and five spice. Throughout the whole meal, everything was rising action and then a climax of succulent chicken in a sweet red berry sauce that had left me speechless. Just to see if the chicken could appeal to my taste without the sauce, I plucked a bit and sampled it alone. The chef must have known that someone like me would try to see if the chicken alone could induce a wide smile. My compliments to the chef for success. Knowing that this was my final course and it being so blooming magnificent, I savoured each bite for as long as possible.

Much like yakitori that I had in Japan, the portions are small. Street food is not to be eaten as entrées anyway, so if you go to Yusho, be forewarned that everything from the menu comes as a taste. I actually liked that, as I got a chance to sample several dishes instead of being weighted with one or two main courses. This also means that I shall have to return and try some other menu items, as well as a few that I sampled on my first visit. For such small portions and the ambience and presentation being chic, I was expecting a large tab. Much to my surprise, I was very happy with the bill. Great service, outstanding food, and a calendar entry for a return date, I walked away incredibly pleased that Yusho chose Logan Square for business. Oh, my appetite says, Thanks, too.

Yusho on Urbanspoon