Here’s some advice that seems obvious, but people still don’t seem to understand: don’t go to Tanoshii if you don’t like sushi. This is a place for sushi-lovers, not picky eaters. This drives Sushi Mike, the head chef of this Andersonville eatery, crazy. To experience all that Mike and his restaurant has to offer, one must be open minded and submit to his culinary expertise. Sit at the counter and push the menu away. Tell Sushi Mike what you’re into and he’ll whip up non-menu pieces of art in the shape of rolls, sashimi, and some unusual presentations such as diced fish with veggies folded in a piece of mango like a sushi taco.
When my party and I arrived at Tanoshii, we pulled out a six-pack of Victory Brewing’s Prima Pils (Tanoshii is BYOB) and asked for an appetizer suggestion. “Fish and chips” the chef said. These were not bits of low-quality fish and potatoes heavily battered then deep-fried. No, no. This was like ceviche bespotted with red roe. This is then shoveled on top of freshly fried triangles of dough. The rest of the meal was just as amazing. Sliced escolar (white tuna) on a bed of a tomato and cilantro salsa seasoned with mango balsamic vinegar was the first platter Sushi Mike fed us. I mean, he literally fed us. He took a spoon and loaded it up with salsa and tuna. Then, he spoon-fed us each one bite. The reason: to ensure we ate it properly.
Dish after dish, Sushi Mike amazed us with his creativity. He serves his sushi up in a variety of ways. One roll that was particularly light and tasty was made up like a lettuce wrap, tipped on its side and topped with a slice of strawberry, small pieces of raw fish, and finely chopped sun-dried tomatoes. I was practically licking the plate after we finished this one!
If you read other food reviewing sites, you’ll see Tanoshii gets a lot of flack for bad service and expensive prices. I don’t know what night some of those nay-sayers went on, but I was impressed by the service the two male waiters provided. My beer bottles were opened quickly and swept away the moment I finished pouring them. Fresh napkins were provided before I asked and plates taken as soon as their contents were consumed. I couldn’t ask for better service. The prices may be a steep for some, but keep in mind, this isn’t discount sushi. The fish doesn’t come in mass quantities and served on a ceramic boat. An experienced sushi chef took the time to create it and flavor it. You don’t even need to prepare your own soy sauce and wasabi. The food is made and meant to be eaten as-is. Locals will tell you, this is some of the best sushi in Chicago.
Tanoshii is located at 5547 N. Clark. Expect to spend about $25 a person. Small parties should sit at the counter for the best experience, and reservations are welcome. There is also a back-room that is available for private parties. Contact Mike at (773) 878-6886 for more information.