Sunday, January 6, 2008
In early January, the temperature has inexplicably climbed into the fifties in Evanston IL. I'm dreaming of flip flops and tulip blossoms while trying to keep in mind that winter has just begun. But this doesnt' mean I won't take this opportunity to indulge in a little warm-weather noshing.....SUSHI!
In July, 2007 Evanston was treated to a sushi heavy hitter. Blu, lead by Chef Sang Lee, formerly of Moda, presents a menu capitalizing on fresh fish. There are 30 options for sushi/sashimi and several dozen signature roll options, covering all the classics and branching into territory unknown for this sushi lover. Tobiko, I learned is flying fish roe, one of Chef Lee's specialties. Lee's menu also includes fare from the fields, like Black Angus Beef and soy braised duck, but the focus is clearly on the fish.
Our meal began with the Hamachi Tataki: six pieces of seared yellow tail slightly encrusted with pepper corns and topped with a fine mince of tomato and cilantro. The fish sat on a ribbon of cucumber wrapped into a tight spiral around a chiffonade of greens in a plum reduction and topped with mint. It was delectable. the tuna was perfectly cooked, accentuating its velvety texture and allowing its flavor to shine unobstructed. The concert of tastes played beautifully off each other, the plum adding depth and dimension, while the mint dotted each bite with bright staccato notes The refreshing cucumber was fun to eat left me ready for more.
Despite the excellence of our first course, the miserable service throughout the meal was beginning to take its toll. Water glasses went unfilled, food waited on the bar for delivery, and our waiter new nothing about the wine list. When my mother inquired about a Pinot Gris, she was informed that it was a "white wine." Well, yes, this, we clearly knew.But then our next round of deliciousness arrived. We sampled mackerel, tuna, and red snapper, all of which were outstanding. The personalities of each fish were allowed to shine with a three to one fish:rice ratio. Perfect.
However, my enjoyment was interrupted because we lacked a single nagiri bite and waited over fifteen minutes for it to arrive. By the end of the meal, I was tired and my mother was irritated. Walking out of the restaurant, beneath the Chuhuly-esq light fixtures, it was clear that the new establishment needs to iron out the kinks. However, the food itself was so good, it easily trumped the abominable service. I will return open minded and empty stomached.
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