Serious Eats: Chicago
TGI Fry-Day: Ellen Roll from Hachi's Kitchen
Hachi's Kitchen in Logan Square is that rare restaurant that is at once trendy and homey. The low lit, dark-wood-tabled interior would be the perfect spot to impress on a first date, but the friendly and attentive family owners ensure that it's the sort of place that you'll soon return with old friends. From the steaming hot towel that began the meal to the cool, pastel-colored mochi that ended it, my recent meal at Hachi's soothed and rejuvenated in a way that only a proper sushi restaurant can.
Now I could wax poetic for pages about the delicate, fresh fish coming out of the kitchen (the ahi poke is a completed bucket list in its own right, and I could've died happily on the spot after trying it). But this is a fried food column, after all, so a little excess is in order.
Created by the owners' daughter, the off-menu Ellen Roll ($15.00) is over the top while still maintaining balance. Ebi (shrimp) tempura, avocado, cucumber, cream cheese, and bright green wasabi tobiko (fish roe mixed with wasabi powder) is rolled with nori and rice into a plate-length roll. After a thorough application of tenkasu (tidbits of tempura batter fished from from the fry oil), the roll is garnished with Unagi sauce and spicy mayo. Each piece is a veritable mouthful, but oh, what a bite it is: the rich sauces and briny shrimp contrast with the cool vegetables, and the tempura ensures crunchiness to the bitter end. Coupled with an ice cold Sapporo and the aforementioned ahi poke and enjoyed on Hachi's outdoor patio, I can't think of a more impressive, or soothing, late night summer meal.