A Spotlight On Chicago’s Best Sushi
Chicago boasts a thriving sushi scene, and locals obsess over their favorites. But unlike the city’s hot dog and pizza fanatics—where it’s usually about sticking to tradition—the sushi lovers pay more attention to chef-driven techniques. Of course, the more inventive the better.
From quaint and understated neighborhood hangs to flashier spots in the heart of the downtown area, we gather some of the very best sushi restaurants guaranteed to impress even the most discerning diner.
An especially popular destination for its authentic ramen offerings, Arami also boasts a fantastic list of traditional and contemporary nigiri, sashimi and maki delights. Presentations are grand and sometimes offbeat, but the best way to experience them is to order the chef's choice. Much of the seafood is sourced from Asia (think Korean fluke, Japanese red sea bream) and cocktails and sake are easily paired. A standout signature maki roll includes the soft shell crab and spicy ebi topped with spicy shrimp, green pepper, and sweet potato. 1829 W. Chicago Ave.
The Old Town eatery debuted in 1967, making it the first sushi restaurant to open in Chicago. Kamehachi now boasts five locations in the city and suburbs, but it’s the original that has maintained a traditional Japanese vibe. The restaurant offers a number of signature, classic and vegetarian rolls, but one of the highlights is the sushi “boat,” which serves anywhere from six to 20 people. Chef-selected sashimi and maki rolls are served in a decorative boat, and prices range $60 to $350. It’s the best bet for those with larger parties to satisfy. 1531 N. Wells St.
The stylish West Loop Japanese concept is from the Boka Restaurant Group, which is also behind Boka, GT Fish & Oyster and Girl and the Goat. To allow guests to get an authentic experience of how they've updated traditional Japanese fare, Momotaro's chefs feature small plates that are broken down into six sections (snacks, cold and warm appetizers, rice and noodles, salads and soup, from the coals and grilled skewers). They also specialize in fish selections that you'll likely not find anywhere else in the states. The beverage menu focuses on Japanese beer, spirits, wine and cocktails with Japanese accents. The bottom floor of Momotaro is an izakaya, serving cocktails, Japanese whiskey, and sake, as well as a limited menu. It's accessible through the restaurant as well as from a separate outside door. 820 W. Lake St.
Tucked behind the kitchen of Intro Restaurant in Lincoln Park, the ultra-sleek Naoki Sushi showcases creations from a long-time sushi vet. Naoki Nakashima presides over the kitchen where he kicks out traditional Japanese rolls, Naoki-style sashimi—where he really shines—and more. Every meal should start off with an order of edamame "guac" dip, which arrives with house-made rice crisps. The beverage program highlights sushi-friendly cocktails, beers, wines, and sakes. 2300 North Lincoln Park West
The tiny Andersonville BYOB only seats about 30 guests, including the sushi bar. As with similar offerings in Lakeview and Lincoln Park, Ora attracts a clientele for its unique signature rolls. Some of the more offbeat finds in this awesome neighborhood gem include a spiced blue crab roll topped with a tangy, yuzu tobiko and a “surf and turf” roll of seared beef, shrimp tempura and sweet soy reduction. Have no fear. There’s a store for wine and beer at the end of the block. 5143 N. Clark St.
The intimate and sleek spot may be somewhat of a newcomer to the West Loop dining scene, but Dokku’s owners, Angela Hepler-Lee and Susan Thompson, are no strangers to this area—or sushi. In 2012, the duo shuttered the extremely popular Sushi Wabi, which was located directly across the street from their current venture. They’ve smartly incorporated some of the old signature rolls (e.g. Hot Daisy of Albacore, masago, spicy mayonnaise and cucumber on soy paper) on the new menu, which includes "dressed nigiri bites" of smoked Atlantic salmon, arctic ocean mackerel and South Pacific Sea Bream accompanied by sauces. For more of a nightlife experience, diners should head to the basement level Booze Box for signature maki rolls, deejays spinning rare grooves, and a selection of Japanese street eats. 823 W. Randolph St.