During my vacation/stay in Chicago, Arami was one of my dinner stops here. After some research, this was considered one of the good Japanese spots to have sushi. As a sushi fanatic, I’m excited to eat here and booked a reservation.
What surprised me was that even though the restaurant is located almost in the middle of nowhere (I’m used to the packed areas of Manhattan), the sole signage was within the restaurant’s glass windows, indicating its name and address and yet when I entered the dining room, it was pretty busy for 6 PM.
Arami is a sushi restaurant that is unpretentious, hip and casual in demeanor. Its relatively simple decor with the exposed brick, bamboo tables and atrium glass, and have waitresses who are casually dressed but very knowledgeable of the food. (It does serve bowls ramen and udon (noodles) and donburi (rice) for those who prefer not to have raw seafood.) But they are serious about their food.
My friend and I started with uni shooters ($5 each). These shot glasses were enchantingly plated in a large bowl filled with crushed ice and with a orchids and bamboo twigs placed in. It tasted as good as it looks. The shot glasses were filled with sea urchin, tobiko, diced cucumber, shiso leaf, house made light soy sauce. It’s a symphony of sweet uni (sea urchin), briny tobiko roe, crunchy cucumbers and refreshing (shiso leaf).
The togarashi seared tuna ($12) was a delicious seaweed and tuna salad. The tuna was barely seared to impart some smokiness, amplifying the smokiness of the spicy togarashi. The seaweed was lightly dressed in a Meyer lemon, sesame oil-mixture dressing to give some acid, nuttiness and sweetness to the entire dish. As a whole, it was spicy, silky, nutty flavored and slightly crunchy bites.
The Chef’s Choice Special Sashimi ($35) was the highlight of the entire meal. First of all, it’s simply beautiful to look at. Like the uni shooters, these expertly sliced sashimi were presented in a large clear glass bowl filled with crushed ice and set upon small rocks and seashells within the bowl, and graceful orchids and delicate branches of cherry blossoms on top.
The sashimi assortment of the evening were hirame (halibut), madai (red snapper), kanpachi (amberjack), hamachi (Japanese yellow tail), trout (the fish that’s bright orange), tako (octopus), and zuke sake (sushi), and maguro chutoro (a medium fatty tuna). All were pristine and delicious cuts of fish. I even thought adding their fresh wasabi was unnecessary to add.
It was hard to think that this was only $35 (and there were two slices of each fish) that my friend and I ordered a second round. (In NYC, just one assortment of can easily go for $50+ in any respectable sushi restaurant.)
Moving toward the final savory course, from the Special Maki Mono section of the menu, Hamachi Maguro Ebi ($13). This eight-piece roll was delicious. Each piece was a multi-textural experience from the three different seafood/fish used in this roll (yellow tail, tuna, shrimp) and the depth of spicy pepperiness from the spicy mayonnaise and diced jalapeño peppers.
To end this meal, we had our own plate of mochi ice cream ($6 each). The mochi came in three flavors – green tea, red bean and mango. All were generally good – chewy mochi meets cold, relatively creamy ice cream and well constructed (you generally don’t want to see the mochi falling off the orb of ice cream). The weakest flavored was the red bean ice cream. It tasted more vanilla than red bean. The best of the three was the mango.
Overall this meal was very good. The sushi was sublime. No attention to detail was spared. Service was cordial yet professional and the servers know the menu well.
It got really crowded as the night marched on, as more couples, business people having dinner, and groups of friends, gathered up at the bar, waiting for a coveted table. I suggest a reservation or get there early.
To view the slideshow of my entire meal, please click through the slideshow below or through my Flickr set (link):