Serious Eats: Chicago
TGI Fry-Day: Kabocha Tempura Maki at Kai Zan
Kai Zan is one of those rare warm and inviting sushi restaurants. In fact, it's downright cozy, a huge improvement over the sleek and hard edged style of most sushi joints, where you feel about as welcome as a kid in a jewelry store (but I digress). The restaurant also keeps the prices moderate, while not wasting time with overblown and gimmicky rolls stuffed with more cream cheese than seafood. As I found out, it also knows its way around a fryer, as the excellent kabocha tempura maki proves.
Or, I should say, proved. This particular roll was a November special, and seeing as it is a few days into December, I assume it's gone. But considering a few other rolls utilize tempura as a component, I feel it's safe to say that any those would be a safe bet, too. Kai Zan's tempura is obviously crispy, but more importantly it's also greaseless, adding pops of texture without covering up any of the other ingredients. In this case, soft kabocha squash played off the tempura, adding sweetness and color. I can't think of another time a maki roll satisfied without being over the top.