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Tanoshii's sushi (and green tea)
January 28, 2005 | 8 Comments

A wintry weekend evening found a few of us in Andersonville looking for sushi. We payed our first visit to Tanoshii the recent creation of the highly-regarded "Sushi Mike", formerly of Hama Matsu (a few blocks south). Mike carries with him a formidable reputation for skillful, creative sushi preparations. I have never dined there, but Mike's highly-regarded preparations at Hama Matsu quickly enabled him to branch out on his own.

I think it is important for me to interject that I am something of a sushi traditionalist. I am generally not excited by maki described as "creative", "interesting", or "fusion". I generally prefer traditional nigiri made from skillfully-sliced, fresh fish. When someone tells me how "interesting" someone's sushi is, I am skeptical of how much I will enjoy it.

We entered Tanoshii to find Sushi Mike entertaining and serving a large group of admirers at the bar. A hostess showed us to our table and was quick to inquire if we had experienced the work of "Sushi Mike" before. After hearing that we had not, she fawned a bit, handed over menus, and our waitress arrived.

We started with two hot appetizers: agedashi tofu (a favorite of mine) and crispy calamari (a last-minute replacement for the mussels which they did not have). The calamari was terrific: tiny, crispy rings served with mixed mushrooms in a garlic and citrus sauce. The agedashi (deep-fried tofu in broth) was enjoyable, but I've had better.

The rest of our meal consisted of only sushi. The featured maki chosen by Ms. EC and my sister did not bowl me over. They were good, but basically met my expectations of creative sushi. If you like tempura, vegetables, and a variety of fish and sauce in a roll, then this stuff is for you. I enjoyed my spicy tuna temaki (hand roll) and the nigiri was fresh, tasty and obviously cut by a carefully trained chef. Some extremely fresh ikura (salmon roe) drove home the point that Sushi Mike obviously focuses on quality seafood. My only complaint was the size of the nigiri slices. I am not someone who demands large portions, but our toro and hamachi were surprisingly "short" for the price. It took more money than I expected to satisfy me.

The surprise highlight of the meal was my cup of green tea. In the colder months, I drink green tea almost daily, and this had a robust, smoky flavor that was unlike any cup I have had before. I asked the waitress to find out more about it for me (hoping she would bring back a label for me). She tried to convey to me, in broken English, that they buy it from a Korean market near Lawrence and Kimball and that it has rice in it. That's all I was given to go on, so now begins my quest for Tanoshii's tea.

When we left, Sushi Mike was still entertaining the now drunk group at the bar (Tanoshii is BYOB). I had spent a little more money than I expected, but I was not disappointed in the quality. My indifference to Sushi Mike's reputation yielded an experience that has interested me enough to return again one day and dig a little deeper through what Tanoshii has to offer.

Check out Tanoshii at 5547 N. Clark, (773) 878-6886. BYOB. Metered street parking.

Posted 08:55 AM
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