Best sushi in Chicago
Although you can order a la carte, the affordable omakase menu at Melvin and Carlo Vizconde's restaurant is the way to go, and includes more food than you can eat—rich oyster and uni shooters doctored up with ponzu sauce and egg yolks disappear in seconds, seared tuna maki adorned with truffled scallions and takoyaki, a fried dough ball with a nugget of octopus inside. While these are all fun, utterly delicious takes on Japanese food, the decadence stops short of overwhelming the great fish in the maki and sashimi. Tuna and salmon are packed into a balanced roll with jalapeño, avocado, cilantro, masago, chili and lime, and the omakase ends with a generous plate of sashimi.
One of Chicago's most extensive (and expensive) omakase experiences can be found at Kyōten in Bucktown, where chef Otto Phan offers upwards of 20 courses at his eight-seat sushi counter. There are just two seatings per night (6 and 8:45pm), so you'll have to book in advance if you want to nosh on oceanic treats like kanpachi, uni, ebi and maguro. Priced at $220, the menu changes depending on what's available, and guests can toss in an optional sake tasting for $75 if they choose.
Want the best sushi deal in town? It's at Juno, where sushi chef BK Park is doing God's work when it comes to raw fish. The chef’s choice sashimi, perfectly sliced, spread over ice and adorned with shells and orchids, is $42 for 18 pieces of fish (two each of nine different kinds). This is a steal, and while it's enough for a solo diner, there are more great things to eat, like the smoked hamachi, which arrives under a glass dome with two spoons cradling lightly smoked pieces of fish. The Juno King consists of two single bites of tuna wrapped around rice and topped with spicy crab—they're delicious. Even the spicy tuna roll is elevated, with a thick piece of tuna and scallions, and a trace of sriracha and chili oil.
When you're craving something refined, Naoki Sushi is the place to go. The warmly lit speakeasy-style spot is helmed by chef Naoki Nakashima, who also runs the sushi program at Shaw’s. On the menu, you'll find classic selections like yellowtail, scallop, salmon and sea urchin alongside specialty rolls like hamachi with scallion, cucumber and yuzu. But the star of the menu is a selection of Naoki-style sashimi plates: Slabs of pristine raw fish are served in flower formations and adorned with tasty, simplistic ingredients like ponzu, black truffle and yuzu.
Celebrated sushi chef B.K. Park serves an extensive omakase menu at this small West Loop restaurant, which fetches $175 a head for up to 25 courses. The menu, which is sprinkled with pieces of sashimi and nigiri, fluctuates with the seasons and includes indulgent morsels like king crab with uni miso, A5 wagyu butter and potato chip. The sushi counter boasts just 12 seats (there are an additional 10 seats behind it in the dining room), and each seating is limited to two hours. No need to rush: The chefs are trained to keep things moving at a comfortable pace.
You're in good hands with sushi star Kaze Chan (Kaze, Momotaro), who's crafted a menu of hits using super-fresh ingredients and wildly simple techniques. For a full understanding of Chan's skills, splurge on a San-Set, consisting of portioned collections of nigiri, sashimi and rolls that are designed to share. For a totally different experience, grab a seat at the hand roll bar, where fresh pockets of crispy seaweed, warm rice and pristine fish are served directly to you from the chefs behind the counter. Chan argues that this type of sushi should be gobbled up as soon as it’s constructed; even a 30-second delay in service could spoil the experience.
There are more than enough good things at Momotaro to have an entire meal without even glancing at the sushi menu, but that would be a mistake. Toss in individual nigiri or sashimi pieces or go all in on sushi rolls, like the zuke salmon with citrus soy, ginger, salmon skin and smoke ikura. There are several meatless options for the vegetarians at your table, including rolls stuffed with shiitake mushrooms and gourd.
This warm, cozy restaurant seems to encourage you to stay for hours, sipping sake or cocktails like the matcha sour, crafted with gin, lemon, matcha green tea and egg white. Start with the chef's choice sashimi, which includes 14 slices of neatly sliced seafood, including a meaty piece of octopus and salmon that nearly melts in your mouth. The special nigiri section includes treats like rice wrapped with crab and festooned with spicy Alaskan king crab. But sushi at Arami doesn't just benefit seafood lovers—yasai (vegetables) are available as maki or nigiri and include a slice of tender eggplant squiggled with peanut–white miso dressing.
Look for the loyal following of Mike-heads: sushi foodies who’ve followed chef “Sushi Mike” from Hama Matsu and San Soo Gab San to this sushi bar with locations in Andersonville and the West Loop. If you try the cooked items, you’re likely not to go back. If you order your own sushi, you’re likely to offer up a “So what.” But if you make like the regulars and put yourself in Sushi Mike’s hands (name your price, and he creates a combo), you might just become a believer.
This take-out-only spot in Albany Park is an unexpected gem for sushi. First, it's insanely cheap—a tray with 16 pieces of nigiri, a California roll and a spicy tuna roll is just $21, and most nigiri are $1 apiece, with six-count maki rolls starting at $2. These prices are cheaper than grocery store sushi, and while the maki may not be perfectly wrapped, it tastes worlds better—flavors are clean, from a sweet snapper to supple salmon.
The omakase menu at this tiny West Loop restaurant changes daily based on chef Sangtae Park's whims and what's in season and available to him. But if you're willing to put your trust—and $125—in the knowledgeable sushi chef, you can indulge in a 17-course menu that's packed with appetizers, sushi and dessert. Reservations are available at 5:30 and 7:30pm, and only 16 guests are served each evening at the omakase counter.
Dishing out maki rolls and teishoku (Japanese set meals), this Streeterville restaurant from Lettuce Entertain You is an ideal lunch destination when sushi cravings hit. Though the rolls here are competitively priced (five for $7 or 10 for $12), the combo meals are where it's at. Each box includes a collection of rolls or sashimi, poke, edamame, miso soup and salad. To really get a feel for chef Kaze Chan's prowess with raw fish, order the Sushi Lover teishoku box with three pieces of sashimi, a rainbow roll, tuna avocado poke, roasted edamame, miso soup and house salad.
If you can get past the clubstaurant vibes that ooze out of this River North spot, you'll discover that the menu is rife with excellent choices. Start with an order of hanabi, or dollops of spicy tuna atop crispy rice, before selecting an assortment of rolls for the table. The baked crab hand roll is an absolute must, as is the super-fresh tsukiji with salmon, tuna and yellowtail wrapped in cucumber.
This BYOB-friendly West Town sushi joint serves monstrous rolls with a side of art. Some of the Yuzu jumbo rolls are served on platters that are decorated with colorful sauces in Instagram-worthy patterns and shapes. Try the unholy Green Habor, which is packed with broccoli and sweet potato tempura, grilled asparagus and cucumber and then topped with avocado, spicy mayo and sweet soy sauce. Open wide!
Shaw's is one of our go-to spots for oysters and lobster rolls, but the sushi menu is also worth exploring. Given how serious Shaw's is about seafood, it's not surprising that its takes on sushi are simple and well-executed. There are neatly rolled and balanced maki, including combinations like Alaskan King crab, avocado, cucumber and masago, while the slices of salmon, tuna and yellowtail sashimi are precisely cut.