The oceans may be far away, but the Chicago sushi bar has developed a culture all its own. You can load up your maki roll or nigiri with a copious helping of ginger and wasabi everywhere from chic venues that resemble the hottest nightclubs to hole-in-the-wall eateries that make you feel like you might be in Japan. Here is a brief sampling of five:
1400 N. Wells St.
240 E. Ontario St.
1320 Shermer Rd., Northbrook
This Chicago institution has been in business since 1967 and is widely considered the city’s first sushi bar. Yelp critics recommend the sunset roll topped with salmon roe at both the Old Town and Streeterville locations. Kamehachi also has locations in the Westin Chicago at 320 N. Dearborn St.; and a sushi café at 311 S. Wacker Dr.
Blue Fin Sushi Bar
1952 W. North Ave.
This chic Wicker Park spot is a favorite for couples on dates. Look for flickering candlelight and “funky drum and bass music” to accompany your sashimi or nigiri, Metromix says. Yelp critics recommend the tuna maki, as well as the “heart attack” (deep fried jalapenos stuffed with cream cheese and spicy salmon.)
842 W. Randolph St.
Look for tranquil, understated décor and a buzzing scene at this West Loop venue. You’ll find a full roster of nigiri, sashimi and maki, but a favorite selection among Yelp critics is the Godzilla roll – with tempura shrimp, avocado, orange tobiko (flying fish roe), cream cheese, and masago (capelin roe.)
2651 W. Peterson Ave.
Critics say the hike north from downtown is well worth it. You’ll find a cozy, traditional Japanese atmosphere, with fish that critics say is among the freshest they’ve seen in the area. Says one Yelp critic, “The sashimi, nagiri and maki are hands down the best I’ve ever had.”
2546 N. Clark St.
Head to Lincoln Park for this BYOB restaurant, known for its fresh cuts of fish and creative combinations. Yelp critics recommend the offbeat maki rolls, such as the Oh My God roll with shrimp and unagi (eel), and the Southern Galz roll, with spicy tuna and mozzarella, deep fried and covered in sriracha (Thai hot sauce.)