I never experienced sushi growing up. I would learn of it at some point in my early twenties. The concept both intrigued and frightened me a little. The idea of raw and mysterious meats made me wonder how I could work up the nerve to try it. The fear of the unknown kept me away.
What changed all that for me was my good buddy, Martin. He knew sushi well enough. He’d been to Japan after all. He had a sense of the basics and could guide me through the process of making my first selections. It gave me the courage to start with the “safe stuff”, smoked salmon, tuna, and shrimp. I stayed there for a little while, afraid to try anything I’d never eaten in another form before.
Fast forward a few years to when I met Vojn. He’d moved here from San Francisco, a seafood mecca out west. He was convinced Chicago couldn’t offer comparably good chinese food, seafood or sushi. Challenge accepted. That led to the delightfully surprising Sushi House in downtown Naperville. Dragon roll good. Godzilla Roll better. We both left there impressed, and the bar had been raised on my expectations.
Martin also introduced me to kaiten sushi at Sushi Station in Rolling Meadows. Sushi on conveyor belts, so there’s always something ready when you are. Even when it’s not the best sushi around the experience is still worth the trip for the uniqueness in presentation alone. He also got me hooked on unagi and anago, the two types of eel. Done right, it’s amazing. Done wrong, it’s a little fishy. So it’s always a gamble, but one I relish taking.
Fast forward a few more years, and after numerous places both good and bad, thanks to Restaurants.com, I discovered Sushi by Chef Soon in Lisle. Of all the contemporary and fusion sushi places I’ve been to, this one nails it on all counts. Often, a sushi place will excel at either rolls or individual pieces. Chef Soon gets both right. I cannot recommend it enough.
So what do I love so much about sushi? Beyond the flavors and the variety, sushi taught me to slow down and dine. The process: prepare chopsticks, cleanse palette with ginger, dip piece in soy sauce or top with wasabi (optional), place piece in mouth and slowly savor the flavors, then repeat. This isn’t scarfing down a burger or devouring a burrito. This is dining at it’s best, slow and deliberate, with immense variety throughout the meal.
So, when it comes to dining out, there’s nothing else quite like sushi. Except maybe tapas. Yes, tapas and sushi. Oh, and dim sum. So, tapas, sushi, and dim sum. Wait, there’s also churrascaria, which can still be a very diversified menu depending on the restaurant… and let’s not forget fondue… Anyway, you get my point. Enjoy!