Sometimes you get a craving for one type of food, and it almost doesn't matter where you get it. The Feast takes a look at local restaurants that all serve a single food in common with one another. This week The Feast takes a close look at one cuisine that rolled into and is here to stay: Sushi.
Sometime within the last 10 or so years, someone in the restaurant business figured out that sushi was sexy. After washing up on the shores of America in Los Angeles sometime during the sixties, by the turn of the century, the food had become a ubiquitous, if still exotic treat. Popularized and glamourized by pop culture like Sex In The City, by 2000 it had become tougher and tougher to go on a date without considering sushi and a martini.
About five years ago, it started becoming more common to see Asian fusion restaurants spring up. Thai restaurants in particular added sushi bars to their dining rooms and rolls to their menus. Interestingly, this doesn't go the other way. That's no slam against Thai food, it's just that the artfully crafted, bite sized morsels that comprise the average sushi roll are, quite frankly, fun, whereas a bowl of Panang curry, though delicious, is not. Sushi fit in perfectly among the variety of appetizers available at Thai and Chinese restaurants, and soon places like Jin 28 came about. Diners could get their Pad Thai and California Roll fix simultaneously. Naperville residents say that the sushi here, though not the best in town, is nonetheless fresh and interesting. In particular, the Sweet Heart roll, featuring Japanese sweet egg, sweet potato, eel and sweet crabmeat, served with a sweet chili sauce, more than lives up to it's name.
It wouldn't be a stretch to say that Wild Tuna Sushi is wildly popular. It ranks number one as the highest rated restaurant in the local 'sushi bar' category on Yelp. Despite the fact that this place in a stripmall in an out of the way part of town, it has a legion of loyal regulars who rave about everything from the service to the presentation. The owner is said to enjoy chatting up the occasional table, and has been known to occasionally hand out a free appetizer when in the mood. This place is no frills, yet it's a bit on the pricier side, though it's patrons say that the cost is well worth it. In particular, the Godzilla Maki, at $16, with shrimp tempura, crab stick, avocado, cucumber, cream cheese & tobiko in a spicy and crunchy giant roll is very popular.
There's a few small tables at the back of this also tiny grocery store. Here, surprised Naperville residents who visit Taka for the first time find themselves wondering how such excellent sushi can come out of such an unassuming place. The bulk of the business here is takeout and—as music to the ears of lucky nearby Naperville residents—delivery, but those who sit and eat find themselves under the watchful eye of the friendly staff here, who have been known to crack jokes and even share candy. In an interesting twist, brown rice can be requested for an extra 50 cents, which provides a nice bed for their California Deluxe, a twist on the plain old California roll which combines crabmeat, fresh avacado, cucumber, cream cheese, and orange masago caviar rolled in sushi rice.
There are many interesting things about Shinto. First, the six year old small restaurant chain has just two locations, one here and one in Ohio. In the company literature, a focus is put on the concept of Shinto, or the way of the Gods. The way of the Gods must have something to do with ultra-modern design and dark lighting. The place is spectacle inside and out—a hot air balloon in the parking lot pulls customers into the hibachi grill carnival inside. If you're one of the diners here eating sushi (as opposed to having grill chefs attempt to flip cooked shrimp into your mouth), you can't go wrong. All of the special rolls are pretty special indeed, like the Spicy Shinto with thin sliced octopus, shrimp, crabavocado, asparagus, carrots and cucumber with spicy mayo, or the Naperville Roll, with shrimp, smoked eel, bonito flakes,cucumber, kaiware, tamago and tobiko topped with eel sauce.
Another example of Asian fusion, or Pan-Asian cuisine, Tokyo Bayserves up Chinese food, Thai, as well as both sushi and steaks. More than just a restaurant, the eatery offers fun events, like sushi making courses, live music and, of course, karaoke. There are multiple ways to have fun and challenge yourself here, and if you aren't going to get onstage and belt out Roxy Music's "More Than This," a la Bob Harris, you can take on the Tuesday All You Can Eat challenge. Every Tuesday night, the hungriest diners can take on the challenge of all you can eat sushi, though beware: everything you take but don't eat, you pay for at the regular price.