Chicago: Chizakaya Japanese Pub

I made it back to Chicago just in time for some New Year's Eve fun with my girls. We'd decided that instead of paying cover for some club, we would much rather spend money at a restaurant and be fed. Being poor students, we didn't want to pay an arm and a leg. Chizakaya seemed the offer the most bang for our buck:

It was almost comical how much trouble we had trying to find the place. After walking in the wrong direction coming out of the L, correcting ourselves, and then walking past the restaurant, we finally made it there almost half an hour later than our reservation. Luckily for us, our table still wasn't quite ready.

Waiting for the rest of our party to arrive gave us some time to look around the restaurant. I will be the first to admit to being somewhat confused by Chizakaya. Parts of the interior looked very sleek and modern:

Then there was some epic murals on the ceiling that felt rather out of place:

We all decided that the design concept as a whole didn't really work for us. What was nice, though, was the table next to the open kitchen. Unfortunately, we weren't seated there.

For New Year's Eve, Chizakaya had two prix fixe menus. The 7 course was $35 while the 10 course was $50. We collectively agreed on going with the 7 course and bypassing the beverage pairing:

First up was the oyster with caviar and champagne gelee:

2nd course was the scallop sashimi with Asian pear:

I'm usually a huge fan of raw oyster, but I wasn't incredibly impressed with this one. The scallops, on the other hand, were much better, but while the pear added a contrasting texture, the pear flavor was somehow lost.

3rd was the mushroom consommé with maitake mushrooms, sea algae, and fiddlehead ferns:

Yea...not my favorite of the night. The consomme had a really salty and sweet taste that would've probably tasted better over rice.

Next came the duet of tataki, which consisted of wagyu with spicy ponzo and bonito with jalapeño and lime:

The wagyu had a nice beefy flavor, but I didn't detect any spiciness in either the wagyu or the bonito.

The Kakuni braised pork with satsuaimo sweet potato, quail egg, and a baby greens salad was probably my favorite entrée of the night:

Befuddlement abound when we were each handed a knife, but no fork. After a bit of experimenting, we each figured out our own way of utilizing the chopsticks together with the knife to tear apart the meat. It wasn't easy...the pork wasn't exactly cooked to the point of fall-apart-tender and the knife itself was only slightly more useful than a butter knife. We made it work though. The pork was a little too salty, but everything came together pretty well.

We were informed that our desserts weren't quite ready yet, so instead we were each brought a chocolate hazelnut canoli with quinze jam off the 10 course menu:

Then came the lychee sake sorbet:

The sorbet was my absolute favorite dish off the entire menu. I could have skipped everything else and just had this. Not much sake flavor, but the lychee was bright and refreshing and there were actual chunks of fruit inside!

We debated for a bit whether or not we would get the green tea yuzu creme brulee since we'd already received 2 desserts. I was really hoping we would because it seemed the most interesting of all the offered desserts. We needn't have worried because it did eventually come:

Sadly, for many people the creme brulee had not set properly and ended up too soupy to be enjoyed. Mine was fine and I cleaned the ramekin. I really didn't like the sakura blossom macaroon though. It was just too sweet and artificial tasting. I have this thing against overly fragrant or flowery foods because they all taste like potpourri to me. My roommate, however, liked it fine.

At the end of the meal, we were each given a guava candy:

There was some misunderstanding about the bill, so there were a few tense and awkward moments toward the end and while I'm not sure if everything was eventually completely cleared up, we were brought a round of sake shots on the house.

And at midnight, we were each handed a complimentary champagne toast:

A lot of the dishes were very hit or miss. But I guess I shouldn't complain since it was only $35 for a New Year's Eve dinner. I just really wanted to like Chizakaya more.

Oh well, luckily being surrounded by friends makes any outing fun. Hope you all had a happy New Year!

3056 N Lincoln Ave
Chicago, IL 60657
(773) 697-4725


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