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Wasabi

Photo: Marina Makropoulos
Wasabi
Logan Square

If Wasabi were the Publican and the menu encouraged me to send the kitchen a sixer of beer, we just might be able to get something going here. As it is, the cooks and sushi chefs at this three-month-old Japanese restaurant are dead tired, bored and/or just going through the motions without much of the care and attention it takes to create a notable sushi-yakitori-ramen-etc. joint. Sometimes they cut the flabby fish correctly; sometimes they don’t. Occasionally they’ll roll the maki tight enough to make it to the mouth intact, but not always. But almost across the board, they are simply putting out bad ramen, assembled from one-note broth and uninspired noodles.

But there’s a little hope. In my adventures through this land mine, I’ve figured out that if you bring a bottle of chilled sake and order specific small plates and skewers, you can actually have a nice meal here. You’ll need to abandon the idea of eating a light, fresh, healthy Japanese dinner, though. Wasabi’s standouts are drinking foods—the stuff that comes straight from the fryer to your plate—that make that crisp sake essential. There are juicy chicken drumettes dusted in seasoned cornstarch and fried crisp, nubs of chicken skin threaded onto a skewer and turned into poultry CornNuts, soft Japanese sweet potato coated in crunchy panko and a genius fried spring roll that pairs luscious Berkshire belly with tart kimchi.

And then there’s the one standout that doesn’t require continuous swigging to keep the food coma at bay: the yellowtail collar, kissed with salt, perfectly grilled and needing nothing more than a squeeze of lemon. Of course, when the best execution of fish in a sushi restaurant is a cooked scrap cut, the owners might want to think about recasting the concept.

By Heather Shouse

Venue name: Wasabi
Contact:
Address: 2539 N Milwaukee Ave
Chicago

Cross street: between Sacramento Ave and Logan Blvd
Opening hours: Brunch (Sat, Sun), dinner (Tue–Sun)
Transport: El stop: Blue to Logan Square. Bus info: 52, 56, 74.
Price: Average small plate: $9
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