Sunday, September 22, 2013

Usagi Ya

While I like sushi, I really don't go out for it that often.  My favorite sushi place closed relatively recently so I know that I will have to look for another favorite.  Going to Usagi Ya, I had a pretty good idea that I was not going to find my new favorite but it is always nice to have a good place to fall back on wherever you happen to be.  Located just south of the Polish Triangle in Noble Square, it isn't exceptionally obvious despite the fact that it is on a main drag (Milwaukee Ave.).  The storefront is flush with neighboring buildings and the large wooden sign, the width of the storefront, is mounted above the doorway.  The interior has a modern look with a brown color scheme with several paintings of urban characters with a design that looks like a cross between graffiti and anime.  The sushi bar is wood and runs the length of the restaurant on one side with banquette seating on the opposite wall.  There are also a couple of larger semi-private tables at the front of the restaurant on either side of the door.  The lighting is provided from hanging lights over the bar and some ceiling lights with an odd cartoon speech balloon shape.  I decided to sit at the bar because I like watching the chefs work.  I started my meal out with an Oyster Shooter.  I like oysters and I will easily suck them down raw.  What came out was not what I expected but it did definitely fit the bill for what an oyster shooter could be.  I did forget, however, to take a picture of it.  What came out was a shot glass filled with a dark liquid and some solids.  It was the oyster in Ponzu Sauce with a Quail Egg and some Chili Sauce to provide some spice.  While it makes sense that a shooter would be in a shot glass, I think that I have previously had a shooter in the oyster shell.  While it wasn't what I expected, it was good.  The next thing that came out I didn't order but I didn't mind because free is good.  I was presented with a Seaweed Salad with Onions, Cucumbers, a Sweet Rice Vinaigrette, and topped with Sesame Seeds.  It was crispy, sweet, and had a nice sesame finish.  It was pretty good but the fact that it was free made it better.                                                                                                                                            
 When I go to a sushi place, I like to try both Nigiri (the raw sliced fish with a little rice) and the Maki (rolls).  For my Nigiri, I got Escolar (White Tuna), Hamachi (Yellowtail), Sea Bass and Octopus.  These were also served with the standard candied ginger and wasabi.  I would generally mix up a platter of soy sauce and wasabi for dipping which, while good, does overwhelm the flavor of the fish.  I decided to forgo this this time so I could actually taste the fish.  The flavors of the fish were all pretty mild and briny.  The major differences were in the texture.  The escolar was the chewiest and the octopus the most tender.  The sea bass was a little sweeter than the rest so I think I liked that best.

For the maki, I ordered two.  The first was called a Spider Maki with Tempura Soft Shell Crab, Cucumber, Avocado and Masago (a small forage fish like a Smelt).  The other maki was called the Usagi Ya Maki which had Unagi (Fresh Water Eel), Salmon, Escolar, Avocado, Asparagus, and Tempura Crunch wrapped in Soy Paper with Unagi Sauce and Wasabi Mayo.  They were both flavorful although I think I liked the Usagi Ya Maki better.  They were both crunchy and a little spicy but the soy paper was a little better than the seaweed paper.

The go to dessert for many Japanese and Sushi restaurants is Mochi.  I will say that I really don't get mochi and if I have a choice not to order it, I will.  For my dessert, I ordered something that was decidedly not Japanese although it did have some Asian flavors.  I ordered a Ginger Lemon Cheesecake with Raspberry Jam and topped with Whipped Cream.  The cheesecake had a good cheesecake texture with a great ginger and lemon flavor and was obviously sweet.  The raspberry jam helped tie the ginger and lemon together.

I liked my dinner here, it was pretty good, and I will probably be back.  The space was nice and the service was good  but I will continue to have to search for a new favorite sushi place. 

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