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    Post #1 - September 22nd, 2004, 3:29 pm
    Post #1 - September 22nd, 2004, 3:29 pm Post #1 - September 22nd, 2004, 3:29 pm
    Yesterday, we took advantage of a pleasant evening and dined at a new sushi venture on Roscoe called Kaze Sushi. As a whole, the experience was quite favorable: nice interior, inventive take on sushi, and service was extremely friendly and cordial.

    The atmosphere was very minimal/clean yet contemporary. The color scheme encompassed mostly white with tannish accents to the wall. Music in the background was mostly downtempo which gave the restaurant a loungey vibe.

    After reading the menu, we felt that the variety was laking. The maki consisted of your basin standard choices. We weren't in the mood for their cooked dishes (at least we didn't think we were) so we opted for the chef's choice menu which provided portions from various parts of the menu in addition to items not currently on the menu. The chef came to our table and asked for our likes/dislikes and we told him that we were open to anything he had in mind with the inclusion that we would prefer the focus to be on the fish and that we were on somewhat of a budget. That being said, here's a brief rundown of what was prepared:

    - carrot soup with fresh crab meat...this we enjoyed. Sweet tasting and smooth texture. Crab meat wasn't plentiful but the combination of tastes was pleasant. This was served with a rice cracker on which they recommended to place the crab meat.

    - tuna special (bluefin tuna sliced immersed in a truffle oil)....this too was nice on the palate and a favorite of the evening.

    - ankimo (monkfish liver w/ sliced almonds and another type of reduction) my least favorite dish of the night. not bad by any means. just didn't totally enjoy the texture of it.

    - hiramae (flounder with the added touch of an orange sauce and sprouts)....nice, light and citrusy. slices of flounder were very fresh. refreshing to say the least

    - whitefish (flounder wrapped with tempura shrimp and served in a parsley sauce w/ dabs of chili oil)....not usually a big fan ot tempura but this dish worked nicely.

    - finally a plate of nigiri w/ various toppings (their specialty). 5 items total (bluefin tuna, salmon, marinated salmon, yellow tail, and sea urchin)....all were unique and topped with items such as shitake mushrooms, bananapeppers, truffle oil, etc.. All had a distinct and yet not too overpowering of a taste.

    Overall, we were glad to have this experience at Kaze. Leah, our waitress, was extremely friendly and new the offerings well. The bill....close to $90 w/o tip which was a little more than we were expecting. The nigiri pieces with toppings were $3-$4 apiece (mostly $4) which some might consider a little expensive. All in all, a good experience and we probably will return just to see what other creations they can come up with. Cheers.

    Kaze Sushi
    2032 W. Roscoe
    www.kazesushi.com (looks to be under construction)
  • Post #2 - September 22nd, 2004, 3:39 pm
    Post #2 - September 22nd, 2004, 3:39 pm Post #2 - September 22nd, 2004, 3:39 pm
    K2paD,

    Welcome to LTH! I saw your post on this on Chowhound yesterday. I have actually been to Kaze on several occasions and am happy to hear that your experience was generally positive. I know the managing partner, Andre, who has done a fantastic job of reaching out to the community - including calling us on my husband's cell phone after our first meal there to see whether everything was to our liking. I'm happy to hear that they seem to be working some of these kinks out. I too really liked the carrot soup and found the tempura particularly well done. It's a good addtion to the culinary landscape of Roscoe Village even if a bit pricey.
    Last edited by MAG on January 26th, 2005, 5:12 pm, edited 1 time in total.
    MAG
    www.monogrammeevents.com

    "I've never met a pork product I didn't like."
  • Post #3 - September 22nd, 2004, 5:18 pm
    Post #3 - September 22nd, 2004, 5:18 pm Post #3 - September 22nd, 2004, 5:18 pm
    I remember when Kaze Sushi was first under construction; this was right after the fire at Hot Doug's. I saw something new--a restaurant--being built on Roscoe, and went to ask the construction workers what it was going to be. They said "a sushi restaurant," and I was immediately struck with disappointment. Thus I've been avoiding the place simply because it's not Hot Doug's :wink: . However, now that I hear it's not too bad I might just have another reason to come to Roscoe Village...
  • Post #4 - October 7th, 2004, 9:09 am
    Post #4 - October 7th, 2004, 9:09 am Post #4 - October 7th, 2004, 9:09 am
    I have one very good thing to say about Kaze: the quality of their fish is unsurpassed. Clearly this is one of the most important complements that you can pay to a sushi bar or Japanese restaurant.

    Unfortunately, I have a large criticism.

    Dinner at Kaze felt like a trip to a used car lot. The staff was extremely transparent about trying to push specials, up-sell, and basically squeeze every dollar they could from me. Here's a quick outline of the little interactions that built up that "car lot" atmosphere:

    --The initial offer of water for the table did not include tap (or "plain") water as an option. We were presented with the option of "bottled or sparkling", both obviously costly. You may be familiar with the restaurant industry's sales method of offering bottled, sparkling, or tap water. When this offer is made, they're trying to up-sell you. When tap water is not presented as an option, they're trying to trick you. It is akin to your car salesman asking you "Which of the upgrade packages will you be choosing on your new car?", as if this inclusion was mandatory. If you have some extra time, read about the culture of water at restaurants at "Manhattan Waiter".

    --In addition to printed specials, the waitress recited other additions. No problem. After reciting what I thought was the whole specials list, she continued with detailed descriptions of more and more expensive options. Included were a 3-course lobster preparation and a chef's tasting menu that started at $50 per person. Somewhere in the middle of her overly long speech, we crossed into "hard sales pitch" territory. On its own this would not constitute a problem, but it did contribute to the atmosphere.

    --When I was placing my order which consisted of a mix of traditional sushi and Kaze's specials, I was interrupted while ordering the traditional options. "Are you sure you want the plain one? No topping?" (One of Kaze's specialties is nigiri sushi topped with other ingredients such as minced peppers or truffle oil, at least 50% more expensive than the "plain" counterparts). What bothered me most about this interruption was that I had already ordered a couple of their specials and was adding some traditional sushi to my order. Mild annoyance.

    --Now the straw that broke the camel's back: As I continued ordering after being interrupted, I was interrupted again with the same question, "Are you sure you want the plain tuna?", she asked, as if I were making a decision I would regret. I was not looking for guidance from her as I placed my order. I was very clear about the different pieces that I wanted to try. The constant and consistent push towards their overpriced, over-dressed sushi became transparent and off-putting.

    --Two other times during our dinner, our waitress found some way to comment on the quantity of food that we ordered. It was clearly not enough to satisfy the management's view of how much we should eat.

    I do not fully blame the waitress for the atmosphere she created. She was obviously responding to her manager's direction. It is unfortunate that this direction valued immediate sales over the comfort of their customers.

    I fully understand that the difficult restaurant business inherently elicits short-sighted profit motives, but the potential profit lost in one uncomfortable customer (who might write about it) is much greater than the value of one extra piece of special sushi.

    I may return to Kaze, the quality of the fish was indeed excellent. If I do return, I hope I am made to feel more like a guest and less like a giant sushi-eating wallet.

    Best,
    EC
  • Post #5 - October 7th, 2004, 9:29 am
    Post #5 - October 7th, 2004, 9:29 am Post #5 - October 7th, 2004, 9:29 am
    I concur with the assessment that the fish was/is indeed very fresh. Having opted for the chef's choice (they failed to mention the price for this), we were under the mercy of the chef and therefore were not subject to the "pushing" of certain items or specials. I would have been somewhat irritated too. What are waitress originally recommended was to order 4-5 nigiri or sashimi and then an entree or two as the main course. This would have surpassed my limit as far as what i wanted to spend (given the fact that 1 piece of salmon nigiri w/ topping was pricesd at $4). I think I'll try Kaze again at some point but my next stop for sashimi is going to be Katsu for sure.

    Cheers
  • Post #6 - November 30th, 2004, 7:26 pm
    Post #6 - November 30th, 2004, 7:26 pm Post #6 - November 30th, 2004, 7:26 pm
    After Thanksgiving, my family from Boston stayed a bit longer and they paid Kaze a visit upon the request of the chef (friends with uncle). I was unable to attend since I had to return to school that Sunday. :(

    Here are some pictures of their dinner with descriptions. (Descriptions were written by my family members)

    Chef with Uncle:
    Image


    Tuna sashimi with gobo. The gobo did not have any bitter taste, had a slight smoky flavor, and went well with the tuna.
    Image


    Tempura-fried whitefish stuffed with shrimp, garnished with mountain vegetables, and sitting in a parsley-butter sauce. I think everyone agreed this was the best dish.
    Image


    Snapper sashimi in ponzu sauce. The waiter said 'lemon citrus' which we know is ponzu.
    Image


    Venison in Japanese curry sauce, garnished with apple and mashed potato and carrot. Very tender meat, gamey taste. I wonder if the curry sauce was something like S&B, or Vermont Curry, or was it homemade?
    Image


    4 assorted nigiri sushi:
    -bluefin tuna w/shiitake
    -hamachi w/banana pepper
    -salmon w/enoki mushroom & truffle oil
    -anago
    Image


    Softshell crab roll w/salmon on top, in spicy carrot sauce.
    Image


    Ankimo. Otherwise known as monkfish liver. Grandpa used to get this at Kuni's. Smooth and rich.
    Image


    Black cod in bittersweet chocolate sauce. Deep-fried, topped w/slivered almonds and a shrimp, sitting in chocolate sauce w/red wine reduction. Yes, a strange combination that did not go over too well at the table. Sauce was too heavy and odd.
    Image
  • Post #7 - May 9th, 2005, 2:12 pm
    Post #7 - May 9th, 2005, 2:12 pm Post #7 - May 9th, 2005, 2:12 pm
    Holy Moley. This place ROCKED. I have to say that I fall into the simple sushi category. I like traditional fish and quality toasted seeds and seaweed. I tend to be non-plussed by frou-frou but in spite of the Louis the XVI chairs I was amazed by the flavor marriages and overall quality and appearance of everything. It's not traditional but quite unlike some trendi-sushi joints it did not lose focus on the flavor and ingredients. The seasonal menu and specials were the place we focused on. We ordered one roll (yellowtail tempura with cilantro, avocado and jalapeno) off the regular menu was terrific too.

    that and a martini helps too...
    awesome.
    "Yum"
    -- Everyone

    www.chicagofoodies.com
  • Post #8 - May 10th, 2005, 10:19 am
    Post #8 - May 10th, 2005, 10:19 am Post #8 - May 10th, 2005, 10:19 am
    arghh i hate this bbs system, i just lost two pages of text to the "back" button :-(

    anyway, my experience with kaze has been mixed. the food is good, but i am not sure that complex flavors and sauces have any place in "sushi". yes, a good dish can be made with elements of both, but is it still sushi? is it still japanese food? the fundamental ethos of japanese food is simplicity, why make things more complicated? once again...the food is good, but there is some war going on in my head regarding the efficacy of it all.

    as far as the waitstaff goes, i have been nothing but disappointed. a good server will adapt to a customers level of knowledge, and will customize the suggestions and sales pitch accordingly. i know what a monkfish liver is, and i know what a truffle is. hell i even know what Aji is, and i can cook it a dozen different ways without pulling out the deep fryer. i am not going to ask for ketchup with my sushi, and i dont need my server to hold my hand. a good server will pick up on that quickly, and sell me the good stuff. i dont mind paying for it. a good server wont make you feel uncomfortable by constantly watching your table. i'm gunna tip, and i didnt come to the restaurant to have dinner with the waitstaff. go turn a different table, this one is safe. just keep the food coming, if i dont understand a phrase or word, i will ask.

    also, when the clerk at TI looks at my bag of morels and asks "you DO know these are 39$ a lb, right?" i dont get offended. the TI clerk doesnt know any better, he's probably never even eaten one before. but a server should know better. if i want to order something on the menu, i think its safe to say i READ THE DANG PRICE on the menu too. if i didnt, or if the price isnt on the menu, i guess thats my problem anyway...i dont really expect a lobster dish to be 5$, do you??

    service problems aside, i really enjoyed some of the things on the menu, and look forward to trying all of them. next time i am sitting at the bar though.
  • Post #9 - May 10th, 2005, 3:58 pm
    Post #9 - May 10th, 2005, 3:58 pm Post #9 - May 10th, 2005, 3:58 pm
    Gambatte, Sushi Gaikokujin.
  • Post #10 - January 30th, 2006, 12:30 am
    Post #10 - January 30th, 2006, 12:30 am Post #10 - January 30th, 2006, 12:30 am
    I had my first dinner at Kaze tonight. To sum up my experience, the "fusion" items that they were known for were very good and will keep me coming back. However, other items on the menu (namely, the makimono) were a disappointment.

    For starters, my partner and I had the carrot soup and scallop salad. The soup had great flavor, and they were generous with their "meaty" crab chunks, as advertised. The only complaint would have been the portion size -- it was served in an espresso cup. The scallop salad was very good. I sometimes don't like eating scallops because of its texture, but these 4 large scallops were cooked just right and had good flavor. I was confused with the restaurant's pricing policy, considering that the carrot soup and scallop dish were about the same price.

    We ordered many nigiri items from the "seasonal menu". Chef Kaze's choice was yellowtail with banana peppers. It was very good. So were the other two nigiri - the bonito topped with enoki mushrooms and fried garlic as well as the salmon topped with enoki mushrooms and truffle oil. All the pieces had great flavor and a nice silky texture. I would say that they come close to the food we've had at Mirai (our current favorite sushi place).

    Their makimono, however, were a bit disappointing. The spicy soft-shell crab roll had hardly any soft shell crab, and instead featured artificial crab. Their spicy tuna eel roll did not have much spicy tuna at all. I really wanted to like these rolls more, as the other dishes had been so good, but I've had better versions of these rolls at sushi boat restaurants. One good thing I can say about these rolls, though, was that they were not overpriced ($8 and $6, respectively. We also got uni, which was just OK. Next time I will skip the makimono and perhaps try one of their entrees.

    I was also not impressed with the service. Our water glasses were empty several times, which didn't make much sense, considering the restaurant was not full. Also our waiter went on a spiel, describing what nigiri was, etc., assuming we were unfamiliar with sushi. Maybe I am asking too much of a place that serves nouveau Japanese cuisine to offer traditional Japanese service though.
  • Post #11 - February 19th, 2006, 12:51 am
    Post #11 - February 19th, 2006, 12:51 am Post #11 - February 19th, 2006, 12:51 am
    Image

    Despite living a polished stone's throw from Kaze for the more than a year it's been open, I had never been there. Reports in this thread and others about its brand of gussied-up sushi had put me off, so had the fact that it figured so prominently in all that trendy fusion "Sushi places people are talking about!" hype, and-- well, it never exactly needed my business, by the look of it. My idea of sushi and sashimi is minimal-purist, about as elaborate as it gets is Bob-San's slices of tuna in soy sauce and jalapeno, where I don't even eat the jalapeno but taste its recent presence on the pristinely simple fish.

    But it was inevitable that I try it some time, and so I did. Kaze is not strictly a sushi place, in fact it has quite a lot of cooked food, but I decided to put it to the test on the raw stuff, saying that I wanted to try a lot of things, that I didn't want no stinkin' rolls, and that I didn't need to be coddled with the comfy choices like tuna and salmon. Somehow that resulted in me getting a double portion of tuna, starting with this tartare:

    Image

    Ubiquitous and novel in the 90s, tuna tartare is practically a nostalgia dish by this point, the new California cuisine's equivalent to Shrimp deJonghe. Here it was atop a bunch of matchstick-sized apple, with soy sauce and a little red pepper-- which rendered the apple purely a textural element. Basically this was a nice start to the kind of fusiony-trendy meal I had just said I didn't want to have.

    Next up was mackerel, in ginger-kimchi juice with basil (shredded finely enough for an Easter basket) on top. I liked this picture of the sauce better than any of the pictures of the actual dish:

    Image

    As the sports announcer would say, good save by Chef Kaze! Just as I was starting to wonder if I had made a very expensive mistake, here was a near-perfect, simple and flavorful dish that was actually about the fish and not just the stuff on it. The fishy mackerel was the right fish for the tangy sauce, the citrusy brightness of the ginger-kimchi juice was the right accent to make this dish be more than basil, basil, basil; a mighty fine plate of fish there, Chef.

    Image

    More tuna, with burdock root in the house-made soy sauce and a little truffle oil (which, in fact, would appear everywhere I encountered the house-made soy sauce, which means I ended the evening really having no idea what the house-made soy sauce tasted like). I mean, it's not like lots of tuna is a bad thing, and this was certainly a pretty simple preparation by the standards of the house, but I'm not sure that truffle oil is doing anything for anybody besides justifying the prices. I ended the evening unconvinced that truffle oil and fish really belong together, and having to struggle to really know what the tuna had tasted and felt like (good, but not Katsu-perfect in firmly supple texture).

    Image

    West coast oyster with red bean goo on top. Not an oyster fan, as previously noted, but this was okay.

    Image

    One of the problems with the multitude of toppings placed on the fish was that there were far too many for me to keep track of with photos alone. Banana peppers, garlic enoki, tuna penuche (okay, I'm joking), I just couldn't keep track of all the flavors being thrown at me. Here is, yes, tuna, with yellowtail which is a TUNA, and salmon, each topped with some damn thing, and slathered with the soy sauce and truffle oil, to the point of practically seeming like dessert sushi (how far were we, really, from tuna with whipped cream and a cherry on top?). Looking back on the meal at this point, where the most satisfactory dish had been the one with the strongest fish, I began to feel that the sauces were doing pretty good fish a disservice, making it seem bland by globbing it up and covering it up with too-strong alternative flavors instead of enhancing and sharpening it with something simple and clean.

    Image

    Happily, the remainder of my meal would harken back more to the mackerel than to the less successful parts of the meal. I realize this plate of sushi looks like more of the same, but it was far more successful than its immediate predecessor, mostly finding a complementary balance between actual fish flavor and a sauce or topping, rather than reducing expensive fish to doing a job that could have been handled just as well by bread. Left to right, this was white tuna with banana wasabi (sounds silly but actually hit a nice sweet-hot note), bonito with garlic enoki puree, red snapper with a simple onion something or other on an ohba leaf (terrific, the other best thing besides the mackerel), and baby octopus "nacho" with Merkt cheddar cheese-- no, I forget what that orange stuff was, but it worked a lot better than it looks.

    Incidentally, I took the opportunity to solve a long-running mystery, and asked Chef Kaze why bonito is always served seared; he said two reasons, one, it's a mushy fish and you need to sear it to get a tough enough outer edge for slicing, and two, it oxidizes quickly and searing protects the inner flesh. (He also said they will re-sear it after they close each night to preserve it for the next day, a step many restaurants don't take.)

    Speaking of heat, here's the chef roasting the stuff on top of some of these items, not sure why, but it made for a nice picture:

    Image

    I had begged off at this point, but Chef Kaze, seeing that I had eaten less-comfy things without whimpering (little did he know that I was a squid guts and moss man from way back), talked me into one last item (but it's waaafer-thin!):

    Image

    Eel, with maw, braised radish and a dollop of honey mustard (I failed to spot the brand as he wielded the bottle, alas). Very nice, I might have diluted the mustard in some fashion myself (but then I wouldn't throw mayonnaise around like the Japanese do, either, so it's not like the quantity was obviously wrong).

    Anyway, what's my verdict on Kaze? Well, service seems to be rid of the problems people have talked about in the past, I didn't feel aggressively upsold and only ever so slightly talked down to once or twice. It was mildly disappointing to get a lot of tuna after saying I wanted more than just tuna and salmon, but since I was sitting there watching my stuff be made, I really could have stopped it if I'd felt that strongly.

    My meal didn't entirely disabuse me of the idea that a lot of those sauces and toppings are there for people who don't really like raw fish in its pristine beauty. But Bob-San proves that you can shovel out a hell of a lot of California rolls and still have serious sashimi chops when a customer actually wants you to display them; and Kaze did on occasion, too, with a few things that were quite first-rate, though as my experience shows, you may have to really hunt and choose to get things where fish and sauce enhance each other and don't merely glob the lily. I went into this a fusion skeptic, and came away impressed enough by a couple of things to accept the theory, and unimpressed by enough other things to think it's not an entirely desirable practice. I guess I'd say that, having been once, and having chatted Chef Kaze up a bit, I would be in a much better position next time to know what I wanted-- and what I don't want, which is what Kaze seems to be pretty successful at selling to a fairly packed house every night in Roscoe Village.
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  • Post #12 - February 19th, 2006, 9:23 am
    Post #12 - February 19th, 2006, 9:23 am Post #12 - February 19th, 2006, 9:23 am
    Mike,

    Very nice post and photos. I have been considering a return to Kaze, since it has now been over a year since my extremely annoying meal there. (Although, part of the reason you weren't subjected to aggressive upselling might be the fact that it looks like you bought the whole farm :) )

    After reading your post, I'm still not 100% sure I want to go back. I'm with you on the minimalist, traditional sushi front, and most of the dishes you describe didn't really get my blood going except for the last one. The eel and maw looks excellent. I may go back just to taste that one item.

    Best,
    Michael
  • Post #13 - February 19th, 2006, 10:16 am
    Post #13 - February 19th, 2006, 10:16 am Post #13 - February 19th, 2006, 10:16 am
    eatchicago wrote:Very nice post and photos. I have been considering a return to Kaze, since it has now been over a year since my extremely annoying meal there.

    Michael,

    I agree with your post on all fronts, Mike's pics were great, and I'm considering, though not strongly, a return trip to Kaze after an extremely annoying meal.

    I, same as you and Mike, am more of a minimalist when it comes to things raw fish, 17-ingredient maki rolls typically make me shudder, but Kaze has Thor's (offspring of MAG and TPA) seal of approval so, along with Mike's post, eel and maw looked good to me as well, may have to try again.

    Enjoy,
    Gary
    Sauce on the side, always, implied, axiomatic..........never a doubt, BBQ sauce without.

    Low & Slow
  • Post #14 - February 19th, 2006, 11:26 am
    Post #14 - February 19th, 2006, 11:26 am Post #14 - February 19th, 2006, 11:26 am
    Mike G wrote:
    It was mildly disappointing to get a lot of tuna after saying I wanted more than just tuna and salmon, but since I was sitting there watching my stuff be made, I really could have stopped it if I'd felt that strongly.


    But why do you have to ask them again and again or remind them constantly like they are a toddler? It is a pet peeve of mine--when one feels uncomfortable already making requests, then one is even more uncomfortable having to make them over again.
    Last edited by King's Thursday on May 20th, 2006, 6:19 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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  • Post #15 - February 19th, 2006, 11:50 am
    Post #15 - February 19th, 2006, 11:50 am Post #15 - February 19th, 2006, 11:50 am
    This was more that by the time my wishes were conveyed from me to the waitress to the chef, they had lost their force (maybe if I had said NO tuna or salmon, but "not too much tuna and salmon" became "make the chef's menu with a few more exotic things than tuna and salmon tossed in to the mix"). Clearly they are mainly serving tuna and salmon more than anything else, to judge by the quantities of various fishes sitting in the cooler right in front of me-- so I think if you do want things out of the ordinary (and frankly, I find it surprising in the middle of Chicago that diners are still clinging to the peanut butter and jelly of sushi fish like that), you need to discuss with them what it is you want and don't want (one reason I documented my likes and dislikes pretty thoroughly here, to help with that).
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  • Post #16 - January 12th, 2008, 12:37 pm
    Post #16 - January 12th, 2008, 12:37 pm Post #16 - January 12th, 2008, 12:37 pm
    Last night was the first time I had dined at Kaze in more than a year. On my previous two visits, nothing wowed me enough to care to return, but my friend and I were in the vicinity last night and we decided to give it another try.

    One complaint I had with Kaze last night was with their menu, or lack thereof. There were at least six (and I believe more) items not listed on their menu and not printed out anywhere, but described in detail by the waiter, such that we felt the need to have the specials repeated about three times.

    On to the food. I started with a sweet potato soup, which supposedly had a lobster stock base, pieces of shrimp and monkfish foie gras. Overall, this was pretty good. The soup had a nice rich flavor, although the lobster stock was not really noticeable. In fact, the soup was too thick, closer to the consistency of pureed sweet potato than to that of a soup. The bits of monkfish foie gras added a very nice flavor, but I would have preferred if if the shrimp in the soup had been cooked 10 minutes less than I believe they were cooked. :twisted:

    We shared two appetizers - a seared bison salad (listed on a specials page) and a Otoro tuna tartare (not listed in writing). The bison salad was several slices of bison salad, seared and served beautifully rare to medium rare (tasty), served in a disc with thinly sliced cucumbers, and plated with fried rice puffs (which added a great textural element) and a sauce that I cannot specifically recall, other than to mention that it was too thick, too sweet and there was just too much of it. A little subtlety would have gone a long way here.

    The Otoro tuna tartare was a little disappointing. Like the bison, the tuna was served in a disc form, topped with a roe, and wrapped in thinly sliced avocado. The tuna, unfortunately, was pretty much ground up into mush. I would have preferred some actual pieces. It was served with two thin, long shrimp spring rolls, and with instructions to put tuna portions onto the spring rolls, to then dip the combination into the cilantro oil and mango puree on the plate, and to eat. The spring rolls were nice and crisp, but a little too much cream cheese filling. Overall, the other flavors were nice, but I was just rather unimpressed with the Otoro mush.

    We then shared a three rolls, none of which were written on a menu. One was a spicy tuna roll with tempura sweet potato. This was my favorite of the ones we tried. We also ordered a spicy Dragon roll, which was ok, but too spicy. My friend and I (both lovers of spice) thought the level of heat overwhelmed the other flavors. Finally, a special salmon roll offered sake and soy marinated salmon, and topped with a spicy mayonnaise-based sauce. This was pretty good, but the sauce made it a little difficult to enjoy the sake/soy marinated salmon

    For dessert, we shared the Black Sesame Flan, which was served with spun sugar, basil seed extract and one piece of a red fruit (the size of a cherry) with a pit (can't recall what it was). The flan itself was very tasty, albeit grainy . . . quite grainy. The basil seed extract made for a beautiful presentation and was a tasty addition to the dish. Two parts of the dish failed however. First, a mint leaf cooked into the flan was whole, soggy, and thus not inviting. The spun sugar topping the dish was as burnt as burnt could be, and obviously so. If I were serving this dish at home, I would have re-spun the sugar or removed it from the dish.

    For all of the above (plus a miso soup I did not taste), our bill (including a few drinks) came to about $125 (tax, but not tip). As you can tell from my descriptions, I thought the food was just ok -- too many misses and screwed up elements of several dishes. I really appreciate Kaze's unique take on maki and Japanese food. I just think that a little less attention should be paid to creativity, and a lot more attention paid to execution. For the prices Kaze is charging, I do not think that I am asking too much. Having given Kaze three tries now, I think I've learned enough not to believe it will ever rise above a decent restaurant. And given the prices they charge, I do not believe there will be a fourth time.
  • Post #17 - January 24th, 2009, 12:25 am
    Post #17 - January 24th, 2009, 12:25 am Post #17 - January 24th, 2009, 12:25 am
    Despite living nearby I've been to Kaze precisely once, almost exactly three years ago (see above), and, well, that held me till tonight. Kaze's claim to fame is sort of creative fusion sushi, that is, sushi gussied up with diced banana peppers or truffle oil or who knows what. And I had a very mixed reaction to that overall, three years ago. One thing I had was really good— mackerel in kimchi juice, the tart spicy kimchi juice setting off the oily mackerel nicely. I can still remember how it tasted; and judging by my post, I seemed to have liked a couple of other things pretty well. But some of the ones with a big glob of stuff on top:

    One of the problems with the multitude of toppings placed on the fish was that there were far too many for me to keep track of with photos alone. Banana peppers, garlic, enoki, tuna penuche (okay, I'm joking), I just couldn't keep track of all the flavors being thrown at me. Here is, yes, tuna, with yellowtail which is a TUNA, and salmon, each topped with some damn thing, and slathered with the soy sauce and truffle oil, to the point of practically seeming like dessert sushi (how far were we, really, from tuna with whipped cream and a cherry on top?). Looking back on the meal at this point, where the most satisfactory dish had been the one with the strongest fish, I began to feel that the sauces were doing pretty good fish a disservice, making it seem bland by globbing it up and covering it up with too-strong alternative flavors instead of enhancing and sharpening it with something simple and clean.


    But tonight I was craving sushi, and my garage door had broken earlier in the day, making the logical thing a walk to the nearest sushi place, however deep my philosophical differences with it. So I decided to see if I would feel now the same way I felt then.

    I plopped myself at the bar— almost empty when I got there, full within a few minutes on this Friday night— and ordered a saketini (name aside, the least absurd of the absurd fusion drinks on offer) and listened to the specials. Two really appealed to me— a braised oxtail/coconut curry soup poured over some kind of Japanese custard, and some little river crabs deep-fried with some kind of dipping sauce (you eat them like soft-shell crabs). But I decided I couldn't finish the whole order of the crabs myself, and stuck to the soup, as well as a plate of sashimi and sushi, chef's choice.

    The soup— well, it was quite good. Would have been better if strands of oxtail meat didn't seem to be as precious as saffron threads in it, but it was plenty spicy and appealingly coconutty. A very nice soup... although I couldn't help but think that I had just paid $8 or $9, probably, for a cup of something that (mostly tasting of coconut milk and spicy heat) was functionally identical to the soup going for $2.95 a quart at the Thai place in the next block.

    My plate of sashimi/nigiri—virtually identical to what I had three years ago, I believe, everything I mentioned above (banana peppers, garlic, enoki, mushrooms, truffle oil) turned up on it. And like I thought three years ago... it was, basically, a disservice to the fish, which is of pretty high quality, not mindblowing, but certainly above bargain sushi lunch spots like Umaiya. By far the best part of the plate was among the simplest— there were some really nice slices of amberjack, fatty and very clean-flavored. Dipped in a light ponzu sauce, they were first-rate. But at least half of the gussied-up sushi pieces were, to me, botches, muddying fish flavor with something not only heavy-handed in itself but persistent enough (e.g., truffle oil) to hang over onto the next piece. Not good (and disappointing that nothing had changed in three years-- if you're going to keep ruining fish, at least find new ways of doing it).

    After this, my preconceptions largely reaffirmed, I felt like ordering one cooked dish. My waiter suggested a flounder in a parsley-butter sauce; he was high on this, it sounded like boring banquet food to me, so I pushed him for another suggestion. Somehow that led to tuna tartare, the official dish of California in 1996, which I'd gotten stuck with three years ago after explicitly saying I didn't want that kind of obvious thing. Hurriedly backtracking to the cooked kind of cooked dishes, I said oh fine, give me the flounder, without much enthusiasm.

    To his credit, he didn't steer me wrong. It was small but terrific. Lightly, almost fluffily fried, floating in the middle of a vast green sea of parsley-butter sauce, it was a sunburst of happy fried and herbal flavor on the plate. Now, I have two cavils about the way it arrived— one, it seemed like a spoon might have been more appropriate for eating it and enjoying the sauce (and not the teeny-bowled parfait spoon that came with the soup earlier), and two, as if to mock the crack I made three years ago, there actually was whipped cream on top of it. I thought I must be crazy, it had to be creme fraiche or something, but no, it was honest to God sweet whipped cream. But easily shoved aside to melt at the far edge of the parsley sea, I ate the fish without it, and I loved it.

    Kaze seems to be popular as heck with my fellow Roscoevilleins, everyone else at the bar seemed to know the sushi chefs already, so there must be an audience for fusion sushi banana splits. But having given it two shots, I have to say I remain convinced that that's a sure way to ruin good fish with a lot of flash and filigree it doesn't need. So the thing Kaze is famous for, I would say beware to. Yet around the edges of all that there seems to be quite a good Japanese fusion restaurant turning out interesting dishes of high quality. So I may be back sooner than 2012, but if I do, it will be while ordering carefully to avoid the main attraction.

    P.S. A woman who sat down a couple of seats over from me as I was close to being done ordered the crabs. Oh man, I wish I'd had those. But then I probably wouldn't have had the flounder.
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  • Post #18 - March 3rd, 2009, 6:57 pm
    Post #18 - March 3rd, 2009, 6:57 pm Post #18 - March 3rd, 2009, 6:57 pm
    I'm a longtime lurker here, but just getting into the posting game. For what it's worth, I'm an editor at Centerstage Chicago; LTH has always been a great resource for me.

    Anyway, wanted to throw in my two cents about Kaze, which I went to for the first time over the weekend. Given all the reviews I'd seen, I was excited to try it. The space itself was great, but I have to say I was a little disappointed in the food.

    We started with the tuna tartare appetizer, recommended to us by our waiter. I agree with the above poster in that we were basically looking at tuna mush, wrapped in avocado. The whole construction of the plate was kind of difficult,especially for a group of four people. It felt like there were a lot of steps to get the food in your mouth what with all the topping and dipping and such. I guess it's more of a two-person thing. Flavor-wise, I liked it.

    We didn't go for any of the signature topped sashimi, instead opting for a bunch of different maki. They were all fine, nothing that really stands out in my memory though. Except for the special roll (again, recommended by our waiter); I can't recall all the ingredients, but it included soft shell crab and was topped with sort of a smoky sauce and...beet slices. I'm not against fusion, but the flavors just didn't work that well for me.

    Our table decided to share the asparagus pudding for dessert, mainly out of curiosity. Well, my curiosity's been satisfied - it definitely tasted like asparagus, mixed with raspberry/chocolate sauce. This was not a bad thing, but not a great thing, either. In a way, it was a perfect summation for the meal - a gimmicky dish that tasted good enough, but I was left wondering why they bothered. All in all, I liked the meal fine, and I'd like to go back to try some of their more signature dishes, but it probably won't be my go-to sushi spot, even if there are limited choices in the neighborhood.

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