Kai Zen, Chicago

Monday night in Chicago, I met up with a good friend and her boyfriend for dinner. She booked a Japanese restaurant, and when I looked it up online, I got super excited. It looked amazing. The reviews were very good. I couldn’t wait.

I hadn’t see Laura and Bob in ages, so was excited to catch up… and forgot how much they like food too! Laura and I decided to go for the omakase and get a taste of everything (like she had to convince me…)

We started with the madai carpaccio, thinly sliced Japanese red snapper with black tobiko and a basil miso. Delicious. The snapper was really delicate and fresh but didn’t have tons of taste, so was nicely topped with the tobiko and miso.


Then, the two types of “pearls,” spicy seared tuna and spicy seared escolar, both with soy and truffle oil soaked scallions. I preferred the tuba, but both were good. (I’ll mention the escolar again later).

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After these, two pieces of sushi… I can’t remember which pieces we had, but look at them… perfectly fresh and delicious… and topped with tobiko or scallion.


Then, the shooters. Laura ordered something else while I had these; there was a scallop shooter and an uni (sea urchin) shooter… served with egg yolk, tobiko, all in a ponzu sauce. They… were ok. Fresh, but not really my thing. They could have been any kind of shooter, if you closed your eyes… (I could have been eating oysters and yolk). A little something spicy or tangy (like horseradish) could have been a nice addition.

Next time, I’ll make sure to get something else instead!


And then the angry crab… this was a bundle of deliciousness! Spicy crab wrapped in tuna and topped with a tempura crunch was a surprisingly good combination! To the point that I might try making a more simple version of this at home!


Then a tuna salad, served with wasabi greens, mint, and seaweed, along with polenta (amazing right?) croutons. The croutons didn’t actually taste like polenta, they were light and fluffy instead of dense. The tuna was good, but it was quite large pieces… that I would probably be happy to have as an appetizer, but that seemed like quite a bit of food at this point in the omakase. But a very nice combo with the wasabi and mint!

Then, a dashi served with mushrooms and sesame to cleanse the palate. I really liked this, simple and warming.


The main course was a mix of cour small dishes: shrimp with mushrooms, takoyaki, pork belly, and wasabi octopus.

This picture is the shrimp (on the left) and the takoyaki (fried octopus ball). I really liked the shrimp but was starting to feel full so didn’t appreciate the fried ball as much.IMG_0396

Then, the pork belly (yum, but again, almost too flavourful at this point, though it would have made a delicious standalone main dish). And served with really good greens. The octopus was cold and mixed in with wasabi… interesting combo.


Then, a nice palate cleanser… a sake-steamed mussel with black tobiko, scallions, and negi mayonnaise. A very good mouthful.


Then, one of their rolls, the Fiesta Roll, with tuna, salmon, jalapeno, avocado, cilantro, egg, chili oil and lime juice. The lime juice and cilantro were very nice, different additions to the roll! They also lightened up the taste of the fish somewhat.

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Then, as a last dish, we had some sashimi, salmon, tuna, hamachi and escolar. I forgot to take a picture… the escolar was delicious, though. I’m not sure I’ve ever had it before, but it’s firmer and denser than most other raw fish, with a smoother taste. I was impressed!

As a side note, Bob didn’t have the omakase as he’s vegan. After several grilled veggie skewers, the chef started to make him vegan sushi rolls. He had three separate ones, and they were all very inventive and different… I was REALLY impressed with the creativity!

IMG_0403What an amazing meal. And such a fun time catching up with Laura and Bob… one of my favourite things about them is that they love to travel – this time, they’re heading to Macchu Pichu in a few months! Can’t wait to hear about the trip…



One thought on “Kai Zen, Chicago

  1. So fun!!! Somehow missed this post originally. Bob and I loved the short out! In NYC now with the little peeps. Just left ctrl park n heading to Katz Deli. Missing u!!!! Xo

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