I have an admission that might be surprising to some of you. I live on Chicago’s South Side, specifically in a little neighborhood called Heart of Chicago. I really love living here, but for one overwhelming issue: There are very few restaurants within walking distance of my house.
Jump in a car, and I can get to quite a few places within 10 minutes. There’s old Littly Italy with it’s cluster of restaurants, new Little Italy on Taylor Street, Pilsen’s Mexican restaurants, and Chinatown is quick jaunt to annoying parking land. But, I live in a sushi desert. I have to travel some distance to satisfy my raw fish habit.
Or, at least that’s what I thought. Then, Groupon introduced me to Kohan in the made-up neighborhood of University Village (you know, that crazy area around Halsted and 14th Street that consists of new construction townhouses and weird chain stores/restaurants… well, you probably don’t because people never come to the South Side…)
Anyway, my sister and I went to Kohan to celebrate her birthday and use my Groupon. The restaurant’s decor is a bit odd. Tile floor but with lounge furniture. Black and red walls with pastel wooden slates on the ceiling. The night we went was not a good service night. I guess they had several waiters call in. The hostess and bartender (who I suspect was also the owner) were taking orders while a bus boy was running food out to the tables. Needless to say, we had a very long wait to order (Emily finally went to the bar to get our drinks) and an even longer wait for the food.
But, as they say, good things come to those who wait. Because holy crapoly, these were some good rolls.
What We Ate
Appetizer: We started with the sashimi salad which was a mix of different chopped sashimi, cucumber, and daikon served on a bed of spring greens. The house vinaigrette dressing was a ginger/white vinegar concoction that was very tasty.
Sashimi: The sashimi comes two pieces to an order. We got tuna and smoked salmon served on a bed of shredded daikon with a side of sliced cucumber. Simple and elegant presentation.
Rolls: This is where sushi restaurants shine or die. In reverse order of happiness (this is how we eat sushi: try each one and then eat the one you like least first so that the one you like most is your happy ending):
- Pink Lady: Tuna, salmon, white tuna, masago, and avocado wrapped in pink soy bean paper instead of black nori. It looked a bit anemic and didn’t have much taste. It was mostly about the texture between the creamy avocado and the crunchy masago (roe). Not bad, just an ordinary roll.
- Hawaiian Sunset Maki: Salmon, avocado, and cucumber topped with pineapple and drizzled with honey sauce. Pineapple on sushi… brilliant. (I’m sure they have figured this out in areas where they can get fresh pineapple, but here in the Midwest, it was a revelation.) The sweet of the pineapple was also nice when I laid a piece of pickled ginger over the roll. Very tasty indeed.
- Sunflower: Eel, sunflower seeds, and chili sauce, topped with fresh super white tuna and jalapeño slices, sweet soy and spicy mayo sauce. I usually don’t like eel, but this was knock your socks off good. The crunchy toasted seeds were a great texture difference. And, I don’t think I’m ever going to feel the same about a spicy tuna roll again. This was a lovely gentle spiciness that built in your mouth until you had a decent fire going on.
What We Drank
We each started with a cocktail. The bartender got mine wrong (again, he was frazzled and more than apologetic). Or, at least I’m assuming he got it wrong as I ordered an Asian pear martini and it had a cherry in the bottom of the glass. Then, we had a bottle of cab with dinner.
I will be going back in the hopes that the service was better. But, the bartender was so absolutely sorry and the food was just that good. I think I could even stand another long wait for the roll experience.
Location: 730 W. Maxwell Street. It’s down that fake cobblestone road. Parking in the structure at the end of the street is ridiculously cheap. We were at dinner for about three hours and it was $2.00. I think it would be more expensive to park at a meter on the street.