Hamachi Sushi Bar in Chicago’s Rogers Park neighborhood is one of the newest Japanese restaurants to hit Chicago’s culinary scene. Between me and my guest, we have eaten at some of the so-called best sushi restaurants in Chicago, and we both agree Hamachi tops them all. The atmosphere is very different from normal sushi bars. It’s very small; only about a half dozen tables. Instead of being dimly lit, Hamachi is light and comforting. They use very simplistic and minimalist decor, which really brings out the vibrant colors of the food. Everything down to the tableware is about as minimalist as it gets.
First, we were brought a sampling of sashimi, fish, and a few appetizers. Most sushi restaurants try to pack their menus full of exotic seafood and toppings. Hamachi keeps it simple with three varieties of salmon and two varieties of tuna. The white tuna was my favorite. Very fresh, savory and well-prepared. We were also brought three preparations of salmon sashimi – soy cured salmon, scottish salmon, and I believe atlantic salmon. The soy cured salmon had a light smoky flavor to it, even though it was raw. It was an interesting mix of flavors. The scottish salmon was my second favorite of the three. It had a very soft texture and strong salmony flavor. One of the appetizers included was the nasu tempura, which is panko breaded eggplant topped with spicy salmon, mango salsa and sweet soy sauce. I absolutely hate anything with mango in it, but this appetizer was incredible. It combines sweet and savory with a little bit of spice.
The crispy rice was a first for me, and I found it to have a truly unique flavor. The white rice is very crispy, and almost takes on the taste and texture of fried potato and tofu. It is very crispy on the outside, but soft on the inside. It’s topped with black rice, spicy tuna and pineapple salsa which again mixed sweet and savory with a little bit of spice – a very pleasurable balance.
We were also brought a sampling of their signature maki rolls. Just the colors alone got me excited. I have never seen such colorful food in my life, which really added to the dining experience. Included in the sampling was the black spider, which is black rice, crab katsu, avocado, and cucumber topped with seared spicy salmon and sweet soy sauce. The black rice has a nice light crunch to it, and all the vegetables mixing with the salmon really made my taste buds pop. The red dragon is crab tempura, avocado, asparagus, and spicy mayo topped with tuna, topiko, and sweet soy sauce. It made for a very interesting combination, and the little bit of topiko added a nice roe taste to top it off.
The zebra had crab meat, katsu, spicy crab, and avocado topped with wasabi mayo and sweet soy sauce, and wrapped with black and white rice. It was yet another interesting combination, and the coloring of black and white rice made it very visually appealing. The blue man group was my favorite. It’s made with tuna, white tuna, salmon, avocado, jalapeno, spicy mayo and wrapped with blue crunch, spicy ginger sauce, and pineapple salsa. The mixture of three different preparations of fish with the spicy jalapeno and mayo made this the most flavorful of the group. The blue wrapping also made it the most unique looking sushi I have ever seen. The blue man group is a must-try.
The white sox roll was probably my second favorite. It was prepared with spicy tuna, yellowtail tempura, avocado, cucumber, and spicy mayo topped with white tuna and a roasted garlic black sesame sauce. This roll has a lot of flavor packed into a tiny morsel, but the flavor is incredible. The crunchy shrimp also redefined fried shrimp for me. I’m used to eating battered and deep fried shrimp with cocktail sauce from the local hotdog stand. Hamachi’s crispy shrimp is far from that. They top each individual shrimp with spicy tuna, sweet yellow pepper sauce, mixed greens, and pickled cucumber.
I was informed by the chef that the salmon katsu sandwich is their best seller, so we were provided a sampling. I have never had breaded salmon before, and never really thought about it as a fish that can be breaded and fried. The salmon is breaded with panko crumbs, deep fried, and served on a roll with avocado, coleslaw, spicy mayo, and whatever tankatsu sauce is. This sandwich is absolutely amazing. The salmon is cooked perfectly to where the flesh is cooked all the way down to near the center, where it is left slightly raw. This definitely beats any fish sandwich I have ever found.
To top off the meal, we had some sort of desert platter which was not on the menu. As soon as it was brought to the table, it immediately reminded me of the American flag. The colors were so vibrant and lively. They breaded and deep fried the flesh of a pomegranate, filled it with ice cream, covered it in a cream sauce, and topped it off with a rasberry sauce and blue crunch. What made this dish truly unique was the temperature. As you bite into it, your palate goes from warm to hot, then immediately to cold as your tongue hits the ice cream. Normally mixing temperatures is a huge mistake, but Hamachi really pulls it off well. I’m also not one who enjoys rasberry, but their rasberry sauce was so sweet and savory, I couldn’t resist devouring it.
Hamachi Sushi Bar in Rogers Park is an incredible place, and in my opinion, the best sushi bar in Chicago. You can skip the ginger, wasabi and soy sauce. The food is just that damn good on its own.