Neighborhood: River North
Address: 600 W Chicago Ave. Chicago, IL 60654
Phone Number: (312) 822-9600
Price Range: $30-55
Our Rating: 4 out of 5
What We Tried: Edamame, Tofu Miso, Calamari and Quinoa Salad, Sashimi Caesar Salad, Kanpyo Maki Roll (sweet gourd), Shrimp Tempura Maki Roll, Duck Confit Fried Rice with Organic Farm Egg, Salmon Sushi
Our Take: “Allez Cuisine!” Though I didn’t actually get to hear The Chairman say the words of his great uncle unto me, and we weren’t technically in Stadium Kitchen, our experience at Iron Chef Masaharu Morimoto’s River North restaurant Japonais felt pretty authentic.
According to our very knowledgable waiter, Chef Morimoto spent the first three years of his training to become an itamae (sushi chef) just learning to make sushi rice so it’s safe to say the food at Japonais is pretty authentic.
One thing that is not traditional about the restaurant: the décor. While it definitely had Asian influences, the atmosphere in Japonais was very cool and contemporary, fitting for a dining spot with reportedly great nightlife. Several tasting rooms are available, as well as a raised sushi bar overlooking the open kitchen, making this space ideal for large parties and special functions, but just as fitting for a special date night.
We also learned that Maki Rolls are what Americans traditionally think of as sushi rolls, while actual sushi is just the piece of seafood over rice. Sashimi is the same as sushi but without the rice. Our favorite dishes of the night were the Calamari Quinoa Salad (perfectly crisp calamari and light tangy dressing) and The Duck Confit Fried Rice seemed promising, but lacked flavor other than just duck fat.
All in all, we found that only a true sushi or seafood enthusiast could appreciate the high quality and authenticity of this renowned restaurant. As for four twenty-somethings grabbing a bite before The Bachelor, we would’ve been just as satisfied (and $20 richer) if we’d gone to a commonplace seaweed salad/miso soup/two rolls for $15 type of place.