Kaze Sushi

By grace.g.yang · May 26, 2008
Under: Cheap Eats,Chicago,Desserts,Dinner,Japanese,Sushi

Since I landed in Chicago, I’ve been seriously craving sushi. I had sushi with my college roommates the first night I got here (some place in Evanston that was pretty good) and I made reservations for Kaze Sushi for Wednesday night with another friend. We were deciding between two sushi restaurants but people said Kaze Sushi was some of the best sushi they’d had in Chicago, so my friend and I decided to go to Kaze. We arrived a bit early (around 6pm) and the restaurant was completely empty. After being seated and looking through our menus, our waiter gave us a rundown of all of the specials and things that are really great on the menu. I decided to order the duck entree and six different types of rolls. The duck entree was brought out first:

The duck was surprisingly tender and well cooked in a white wine reduction with apples and raisins. At first I was a little iffy on the sauce because I’m not a fan of raisins in food, but then I realized it was actually really delicious with the duck (I even ate the sauce after the duck was finished!). The tempura shiitake mushrooms reminded me of carnival fries (same oily smell and a little tastier) and the sweet potato fries on top of the duck were crunchy but good. The boiled spinach was cold on one side and slightly warm on the other (the duck was keeping it warm), but overall, the dish wasn’t very hot/felt like it sat out a while before it was brought over to us. There were too many different temperatures in the food that it was kind of hard to stomach. My friend (who shall not be named for privacy reasons), was finishing up the meal when he thought he ate a hard piece of duck, but when he took it out of his mouth, he saw that it was a broken piece of plastic! Isn’t that absolutely TERRIBLE?!

After we alerted our waiter and he profusely apologized, he brought out our rolls – 6 different types of rolls including a dragon roll with salmon, a shrimp tempura roll, a negi hamachi roll, a spicy tuna roll, a spicy salmon roll, and a spicy tuna eel roll. Here’s a picture of three of the rolls:

And the other three:

My biggest complaint, which I mention in the video review, is that there isn’t enough fish in any of the rolls! The hamachi roll had TINY TINY pieces of hamachi (I couldn’t even call it a hamachi roll, I’d call it a ROLL OF RICE). I also had to send back the soft shell crab with salmon because the salmon was seriously rubbery and couldn’t be chewed through. The other rolls were fairly decent, except the shrimp tempura had too much batter on it and I could only taste the tempura, not the shrimp.

For dessert, we decided to share the black sesame flan:

My first question – why is black sesame flan GREEN?! Second question – why does it look like there are spider babies on the plate?! The flan tasted more like peanut butter than black sesame and was very creamy (as a random side note, my mom sometimes mixes black sesame with almonds and soybeans to make soy milk – it’s quite delicious if you drink it cold).

Kazi Sushi had a great open space and lively atmosphere, but it couldn’t make up for the sub-par food.

My video review:

Kaze Sushi Review from Grace Yang on Vimeo.

Mario’s Italian Lemonade

By grace.g.yang · May 25, 2008
Under: Cheap Eats,Chicago,Desserts,Grace's Picks

Four years ago, I spent my summer in Chicago, working for a small paper company as an “interactive marketing associate.” I lived with four other girls (my aunt helped me set up my living situation because I didn’t really know anyone in Chicago) and it was the first time I lived without my family being an arm’s length away. Everyday, I’d walk to the El and do the reverse commute to my office, work for 10 hours, and then head home and place tennis with one of the neighborhood girls. It was a pretty great summer – I had some friends from college living nearby and we would explore Chicago, I was being independent and making money, and I was in really great shape because I played tennis all the time. After long nights of tennis, we would walk to Taylor Street to Mario’s Italian Lemonade stand and pick up large cups of Italian ice – I’m a big fan of Italian ice and Mario’s Italian ice/lemonade is the best I’ve ever had:

I’m not positive what Mario’s background is, but I’ve been told that Mario was just a guy from the city that didn’t graduate high school, but opened up a shop near UIC and has been there for over 50 years. His ingredients are simple but good – fresh fruit, real lemon juice and lemon peel, ice, and sugar. My favorite lemonades are the watermelon and cantaloupe:

They use huge chunks of fruit in all of their Italian lemonades/ices – the fruit is partially frozen and tastes really good with the lemony ice. The only thing Josh didn’t like about the Italian lemonade was that there were huge chunks of lemon peel in the lemonade as well (I like eating it but he wasn’t a fan and spit it out).

Mario’s isn’t open year round – they open in mid-May and close after Labor day (I think). The lines are really long during the summers, but it’s worth the wait!


By grace.g.yang · May 23, 2008
Under: Cheap Eats,Chicago,Lunch

On Wednesday, John and I went to one of his favorite lunch spots in Chicago – Roti. They’re known for having lots of Mediterranean foods that are healthy and easy on the wallet. John took me there around noon and the line was around the entire restaurant and out the door, but it moved really quickly. John recommended the Athenian Plate – a combo plate with steak roti, couscous, hummus, baba ganoush, and a cucumber and tomato salad (I also ordered a side of falafel):

John thought I might not like the hummus because it was too plain, but I thought it was way too salty. The couscous had dried currants and carrots and something that was sharp because it kind of hurt my mouth when I chewed. The steak roti was tender and flavorful (there was a hint of curry in the marinade), and the cucumber tomato salad was my favorite (because there’s no way you can get that wrong). The falafel wasn’t crispy enough and it didn’t taste like it was fried (it was too doughy for me).

John usually orders the same thing whenever he goes:

Two skewers of chicken, rice, and a tomato and cucumber salad. They also have great sauces, including a yogurt dill sauce that John really likes.

Here’s our video review:

Roti Review from Grace Yang on Vimeo.

SoGreen Yogurt – COUPON, too!

By grace.g.yang · May 22, 2008
Under: California,Cheap Eats,Desserts,FRO-YOLYMPICS

Hi California readers! SoGreen Yogurt opened TODAY and they’re having a grand opening special – here are the details:

And here’s the location:

There’s a $1 off coupon on their website! I’m going to SoGreen and Fraiche when I head to San Francisco – any other places I should check out? I’m having a MINI fro-yo tour when I get to SF (I’m VERY excited).

The pictures on the website make the yogurt look absolutely delicious – REALLY thick and creamy. If you go to SoGreen, let me know how it tastes!

Berry Chill

By grace.g.yang · May 22, 2008
Under: Cheap Eats,Chicago,FRO-YOLYMPICS

Before I went to Yoberri, my friend and I checked out Berry Chill, a new yogurt couture shop that opened up in Chicago six weeks ago. Berry Chill has a special formula so their frozen yogurt is lactose free (apparently there’s milk that is lactose-free – who knew?). They’re opening up six shops throughout Chicago/suburbs and by 2009, they’ll be in New York (hopefully people will still be eating frozen yogurt in 2009!). Another special aspect of Berry Chill is that they offer all types of toppings, especially lots of cookie options:

I noticed there were three different types of Girl Scout cookies (thin mints on your frozen yogurt?!), pie crumbs, and lots of different types of cereals. They had a lot of dry options as well as fruit toppings (although their mangoes weren’t ripe so I couldn’t order it as a topping). They had a typical assortment of fruit and their special fruits were papaya and starfruit (although I didn’t see any the day I went).

I ordered frozen yogurt with blueberries, strawberries, and raspberries:

The yogurt was thick and creamy and pretty delicious. I was not a fan of their cups (my fruit kept falling out of the shallow dish). Also, their strawberries tasted like they had gone bad already (or as if they had fermented).

John ordered frozen yogurt with strawberries, blackberries, and chocolate chips:

John actually liked the taste of the fermented strawberries (he said it reminded him of strawberries frozen in syrup). John definitely enjoyed the yogurt and said he would be back, even though he read that frozen yogurt isn’t good for you (who needs to be healthy all the time, right?!)

The hole in my frozen yogurt wasn’t too large:

Not too bad, especially compared to Yoberri’s!!

Berry Chill’s owner talked with me for a bit after we finished our frozen yogurt and said that business has been good – lots of repeat customers and familiar faces already. They’re very high tech – you can buy a frequent buyers card that keeps your past 6 orders so you can just swipe at the self-checkout and pick which yogurt you want (you can also put money on the card). If you buy the frequent buyers card, every purchase gives 3% to a charity of your choice. Pretty forward thinking, right?

The owner headed to New York today to check out the yogurt scene – he should definitely check out Flurt to taste his competition!

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