A short trip to chicago this weekend reminded me of all of the delicious eats around that city that residents take for granted every day. And this was most apparent to me when I was sitting in a rustic-chic sushihouse and swiped my chopstick through the beautiful design of sauces on the wooden block realizing it was wasabi mayo and eel sauce I had just fallen in love with. Two things that sound so simple and yet, it was at that moment that I put the chopstick in my mouth and looked across the table to see an equally huge smile did I realize why the city has achieved so many culinary stars.
I started the meal with a sakearita, attempting to jump back on the margarita bandwagon while successfully avoiding tequila, and it was my first move in the right direction. (This will be my first quest in my Iowa sushi adventure- to find an establishment that currently makes, or is willing to make, a sakearita for me here). My eating partner was adventurous enough to dive into the Japanese eggplant with sesame and eel sauce with me, and although both skeptical about our impulse to order it, we weren’t disappointed. (this has only encouraged my curious love of japanese eggplant despite having no interest in its westernized counterpart.)
As we left the restaurant with that New Love grin on our faces, I couldn’t help contemplate how such a simple, raw space can churn out delicious, expensive sushi in Chicago but not Cedar Rapids. While restaurants here focus on minimal, underwhelming decor and creating a streamlined menu to not scare away patrons, they also don’t take any chances that could produce the same results as Sushi Wabi. I believe the market is here. The die hard sushi fans who aren’t scared of a raw bar, industrial rustic interior, or 100 kinds of sake are here. But maybe they are waiting for something more than a few fancy California rolls to smoke them out of their houses. Which if I remember correctly, that’s exactly what Godzilla will do.