|Spicy Scallop Roll (left), Sloopin Roll (center), Tuna Avocado Roll (right)|
However, given the situation, we HAD to try it (among some other things). And no, we're not receiving any royalties or kick-backs from this!
Umai Japanesse Kitchen and Sushi, the new restaurant at the northwest corner of Polk and Clark, has now been open for over two months. We have had the pleasure of going twice to ensure we're getting a good read on the place (but mostly because we like to go out to eat).
Anyway, the decor is modern with an obvious Asian theme. Their is a huge intricate mural of a woman on the north side of the restaurant, but besides that everything is sleek and modern. The restaurant is small and intimate. Definitely a good vibe and atmosphere inside.
The first time we went the size seemed perfect. It was busy, but we didn't have to wait. The second time we went it was buzzing and packed (granted it was dinner on a Saturday night). People were waiting at the door. Luckily we made a reservation for two and sat down quickly.
Both times we went the service was solid. Naturally it seemed like the second time was a little more fluid -- which would make sense as they had more time to figure out their rhythm.
Most importantly, let's talk about the food. The menu is pretty diverse, so even if you don't like sushi chances are you will probably be able to find something (assuming you like Asian food in general).
Although we didn't know this initially, Umai is actually related to Ma & I (1234 S. Michigan), another South Loop staple. It is a different restaurant and a different menu, but similar to Ma & I the menu is broad and wide ranging.
For instance, their is a Japanesse BBQ section with a variety of different options. We went for the Beef Hanger Tender for an appetizer which was juicy, delicious and as you guessed it tender. We also opted for the Beef Asparagus Roll and Shrimp Shumai. Both were fine, but probably wouldn't order them again.
Both times we went, we had our mind made up on Sushi so can only comment on those items for an entre. However, there is also a Udon/Ramen section and Chef Specialties which both looked interesting and are worth a gander.
In regard to the Sushi, the standard rolls are standard. We would rank them with any solid sushi restaurant in the city and seemed on par with South Coast (which historically has been our favorite sushi spot in the Sloop).
As mentioned above, we usually steer clear of the "signature" sushi rolls, but to really get a sense of a sushi restaurants quality and creativity you have to venture into this area. Between our two visits we tried:
- Goosebumps: Shrimp tempura, asparagus, cilantro, sriracha sauce topped w/seared calamari and miso
- Surf & Turf: Shrimp tempura, asparagus, cream cheese, apple, topped w/seared medium rare beef sirloin, drizzled w/parsley yuzu oil
- Sloopin (duh!): Shrimp tempura, cucumber, avocado, cream cheese, scallion, spicy mayo wrapped w/crunchy topped w/eel sauce and wasabi mayo
Goosebumps was our second favorite, however we would probably try something else before ordering it again (for the sake of trying other stuff). We were expecting the calamari to bring something different to the table, but it blended in with the rest of the ingredients.
The Surf & Turf was interesting, but the beef sirloin really overpowers the subtlety of the other ingredients. If you like the dichotomy of beef and seafood in your sushi rolls you will probably like this roll. We don't really care for that.
While Umai isn't cheap, it isn't over the top expensive either. It's a mid-range sushi spot that provides good value for your buck.
With that said, we recommend Umai wholeheartedly -- and not because they have a roll named Sloopin -- but because we will be going back for a third visit soon!
What do you think? How do you like Umai? How does it compare to other sushi joints in the neighborhood and/or city?