Sushi is one of those luxurious treats that one craves every so often. Not everyone enjoys the idea of eating raw fish on rice, but it truly is more than just fish on rice. Every single aspect of sushi is perfected over years and years of training. Every grain of rice is cared for and flavored to give it that luscious taste and depth of flavor that only highlights the beauty of the fish. The fish is the true star of the show. Chicago, being in the midwest, is not necessarily known for its seafood (although we were just rated as the top restaurant destination in the country), however, for sushi there is none better than Mirai in Wicker Park, Chicago.
Mirai was established in 1999, and has been a Chicago sushi peon for many many years. I have been there many times with my father, and now have the joy of going with my husband. I will warn you, dear reader, that this place is on the expensive end. Do not go and expect to spend less than $200 for a meal if you include alcohol. We went, recently, and were treated to the usual fanfare of delights. First, you should know, the restaurant is extremely dimly lit. This, I feel, is a flaw because it makes the menu far more difficult to see. Often, you will see patrons using the flashlight on their phones to read the menu.
The wine list is lovely here, and the waitstaff will know what to give you provided you have a rough idea of the profile you're eager to drink. The average glass of wine costs $12 per glass. Most pair beautifully with the sushi as well. Because of the quality of their fish, I rarely if ever get appetizers. I want sushi!
We first ordered 2 specials: Tuna Tempura Special and the Yuzu Hamachi special
The Tuna Tempura special was priced at $14 for that roll and featured spicy tuna tempura (fried in a special batter) with the chef's special ponzu sauce. This was good, but felt very one-dimensional. It did not necessarily highlight the beauty of the tuna and I feel the tempura was a bit heavy handed.
The Yuzu Hamachi special was also priced at $14. This was sashimi of hamachi dressed in a yuzu garlic vinaigrette. This dish was truly amazing. The fish melted in our mouths like butter. The sauce had the perfect balance of garlic and yuzu and left you wanting to go back for more and more.
After this, we ordered the the Kani Nigiri, Spicy Mono and the Tuna Tuna Salmon. The Kani Nigiri and the Spicy Mono are a must if you love crab and octopus (both cooked). The Kani Nigiri is a beautiful 2 piece roll of fresh king crab served in the nigiri style (on rice) and is priced at $10.
This might seem like it's priced high, however, the freshness of that crab and that slight acidity from the lemon makes this a must have whenever you go there. The same applies to the Spicy Mono roll.
Spicy Mono is one of the higher priced rolls at $19 and comprises of octopus, spice tuna and a sweet unagi sauce. It might seem too expensive, but trust me when I tell you it's truly worth the price. The savory spice from the tuna, the tenderness of the octopus, it's all delicious and no soy required. It's a perfect bite all on its own.
Next we moved on to the Tuna Tuna Salmon roll which is poached salmon topped with tuna and a creamy wasabi sauce.
While beautiful to look at and light in flavor, it did not offer a depth of flavor. This roll is priced at $18 and was not worth the cost. It might be better priced at $14 at the high end. There was nothing about this roll that left us wanting more. Worth trying, but not necessarily worth repeating. A roll, however, that my husband always orders at each new sushi restaurant is the "spider roll".
At this restaurant it is called Soft Shell Crab Tempura and costs $13. The presentation was fascinating and showcased the crab beautifully. It would've been better to integrate the tempura crab within the roll itself. It felt like 2 dishes on top of the other. There was no balance or blend of the two and made this dish seem particularly disjointed. This might be better to skip at this particular restaurant especially given the quality of the final item we ordered.
The final roll we ordered was not a roll, but rather it was the daily combination special. This is the absolute perfect set of sushi you can order here and comprises of: Akami (lean tuna), Chutoto (medium fatty tuna), Otoro (fatty tuna), Sake (salmon), Hamachi (Japanese yellowtail), and Madai (Japanese snapper). I added Uni (sea urchin) to this which is only available if the restaurant has it. This truly is the best thing you can order at this restaurant and is priced at $32 for the platter. Again, it's very expensive but all it does is feature the absolute flavor and beauty of the fish on the rice. It is the most traditionally Japanese items on the menu here and worth every single penny.
This last item is truly the best and while not every roll will hit it out of the park at this restaurant, it is still an impressive offering and one worthwhile to try out especially if you love sushi.
My suggestions to the chef: don't try to make things more than what they are. Your best dishes highlight the key ingredients and don't have a ton of fuss. Also, maybe be more innovative in your desserts (don't just serve mochi). Overall, this is still a wonderful restaurant and I look forward to eating there again soon.