From the peaceful serenity that flows effortlessly through Katsu, you'd never know that the hustle and bustle of Peterson was just outside the front door. You leave the siren squalling and blazing concrete behind the moment you step in and no matter what time it is (even when the doors are unlocked promptly at 5 p.m.), the first thing that greets you is the sweet chant of, "You have reservation?"
Though you don't need one (up 'til about 6:30 p.m.), it's a wise choice to call ahead for a table at this brightly lit (clearly, they eschew candles) North Side hideaway. We don't know how they do it (and manage to stay so off the radar), but the chefs here magically whip out some of the best sushi in Chicago. Just ask any foodie in the know.
One of the most addictive items on the menu falls under the Sushi Bar Special category. It's a fantastically delicious roll dubbed the Napoleon Roll ($7.50) and trust us, it will be impossible to order just one. It's nothing but a fat, deep fried oyster slathered in spicy mayo and wrapped with a bit of crisp lettuce in just-chewy-enough seaweed. Simple as it sounds, sushi never tasted this good, with its funky Creole spin bursting from the spicy mayo.
We're also loving the unagi (the $4 piece is gigantic and most flavorful) as well as the spider roll, a tasty, deep fried soft shell crab roll ($14). Before the main orders show face, a delicate bowl of bean sprout salad pops up; mixed with a bit of gomae (fresh spinach, miso and sesame seeds), this makes for a perfectly balanced starter.
The Katsu recommendations are all primo (the deep fried fresh Flounder Kara-age and the rare Katsu filet mignon are winners) and the assorted sashimi dinner ($32) is more food than one sushi lover can handle. Though the menu is full of specials (hot and cold), the price can get a little out of control ($70 for two, sans wine, is average), but considering the sushi devotees it caters to, that doesn't seem to be much of an issue.
The vibe is very family-friendly (ever seen a four-year-old chow down a golf ball size piece of raw fish?) and there's nothing quite like witnessing a table full of tottering 70-year-old couples polish off a half-dozen chilled sake samplers (cut to: half hour later and pure mayhem at that table). But, for ten bucks a sampler, we say keep 'em coming.
Average cost: $21-$30
Centerstage Reviewer: Misty Tosh