These days, Chicago has so many sushi restaurants that any sushi lover should be able to find what he’s looking for. From elegant, clubby spots like Japonais, to your favorite little neighborhood haunt, there is something for everyone. If you can’t find a sushi restaurant to your liking in Chicago, I suggest a trip to Tokyo. I can’t help you and don’t even really want to; you’re too picky.
Sublime Sushi on Damen in Bucktown fits into the category of comfortable neighborhood BYOB sushi restaurants. It occupies a tiny store front roughly between Nick’s Pit Stop, (my favorite char grilled chicken place), and the clubby, always-crowded Coast Sushi. The restaurant is decorated in a Japanese version of Spartan style. Natural wood, metal chairs and stylishly bare light bulbs create a mood that is clean, open and friendly. I’ve been to Sublime for a Saturday lunch as well as a Friday night dinner and while I’ve never been the sole eater, this tiny restaurant is never full, probably due to the pull of its more glamorous neighbor Coast down the street.
Hot Tea Cool Sushi
Sublime is BYOB (and they don’t charge a corkage fee), but one cannot live on wine alone (no matter how hard one might try), so as soon as my two companions and I arrived on a chilly winter evening, we ordered a pot of hot barley tea. The nutty flavor of the hot tea was perfect for taking the edge off the evening.
Our waiter was a bit young and inexperienced, but she was backed up by a manager or possibly one of the owners, who seemed exceedingly knowledgeable and jumped in a couple of times while we were deciding what to order next, giving us some great recommendations.
We started out with Sublime’s miso soup, a nice, salty, hot broth, if a little ordinary. Though, I’m not sure what more I expect from miso soup. Then we launched into several waves of sushi. From Hawaiian Maki to Philly Crunch, Dragon Maki to Spicy Crab Torched and Summer Deluxe the sushi was fresh and flavorful. Everything we ate was solidly good, but some of the more unique rolls were really memorable. The Summer Deluxe, super white tuna, salmon, jalapeno, cilantro, avocado, yuzu juice and black truffle oil had a fresh, bright flavor and a nice crunch. The Spicy Crab Torched, made with fresh crab meat, kani kama, avocado, cucumber, and spicy mayo was torched on the top giving it a smoky flavor.
Should I Stay (Home) or Should I Go?
Sublime is a good solid sushi restaurant that does the old standards and some new offerings equally well. The atmosphere is somewhat austere but the price is right and they even have Bento Box lunch specials that are a really good deal. Go there if you find yourself in or around Bucktown and have a hankering for raw fish, or if Coast is packed to the gills. I’ll keep going to Sublime until some newer, shinier sushi restaurant catches my eye.