What would you say if I told you there was a restaurant that made me want to pack my bags and move to Chicago? A Sushi restaurant. In the middle of the US, with no ocean to be found anywhere. Would you think I was crazy? Well, what if I told you they had a fish that I had never seen before - super white tuna. And the fish was amazing. And the rolls were creative. And the prices? How about three people eating for under $50. Yeah, that’s what I thought.
Toro Sushi happens to be just that restaurant. This tiny, BYOB sushi bar is run by a Korean man named Mitch - and thankfully one of my best college friends happens to know Mitch well enough to ensure we would sit at the sushi bar in his section. Mitch is friendly with all who come to the sushi bar, and makes you feel right at home. He is the inventor of all of the creative rolls, which are not only delicious, but huge! We’re talking 5-10 pieces per roll. If you get a roll with fewer pieces, each piece is twice as large as you’d expect, so it’s still a bonus.
We started with some sashimi, which featured the super white tuna (see the picture of it on top of the “Awesome” below). This fish looks like it’s cooked in its raw state - it’s solid white. My husband and I were very curious as to how we could have never heard of a fish before, as according to our friend, it’s very common in Chicago. Mitch told us it’s more common on the East Coast and in the Midwest, but I decided to do some research about it. According to Wikipedia, and a few other sites out there, super white tuna is not actually a tuna at all. It’s actually a fish called escolar, which is a snake mackerel. Apparently, it has 18-21% oil, and if you eat too much of it, you can end up with Olean-style gastrointestinal problems. I will say no more, as this didn’t happen to us. If you are not grossed out by such matters, click on the Wikipedia link to find out exactly what can happen. But, the issues did cause Japan and Italy to ban Escolar. The few ounces I shared with two other people didn’t harm me a bit, and I am glad that I ate it before I learned about the possible side affects. Yikes! Anyway, as far as flavor, super white tuna is very mild and buttery. It has a firm flesh, and does taste like a mild tuna, which I am sure is what gives it it’s sushi-bar name.
Another item you shouldn’t miss at Toro is the fried tofu. It comes in a delicious broth, and is topped with green onions. We gobbled this up before I could get a picture, but it was truly delicious.
One of the benefits of going with a regular, is that she knew all of the best items to order, even ones that aren’t on the menu. Typically, I shy away from rolls that have cream cheese in them, but my friend insisted that we get the Arizona roll. I am so glad that I listened to her, because this roll was amazing. Avocado, spicy tuna, and cream cheese, assembled by Mitch, are far greater than the sum of their parts. And, look how it’s shaped like a cactus! When I go back to Toro, I will get two of these. One just isn’t enough.
Next up was the crunch roll. While this is a roll you find all over the place, if you like a crunch roll, you have to order this. It was delicious in its simplicity. Spicy and sweet, with a crunchy outside and a soft inside, this roll was just perfect. I think I could have had two of these too, although they are really filling.
Finally, we had the “awesome” - another that’s not on the menu. If you like blue cheese, this roll is for you. Stuffed with crab meat, and fried soft shell crab, and topped with shrimp, super white tuna, and salmon, this roll is finished with a dollop of blue cheese on each piece and then flamed by Mitch himself before your eyes. Could it be called anything other than the “awesome”? I think not.
In all, Toro Sushi was a great experience. I never thought that I could eat sushi like that for such a low price. And the BYOB was great because it helps keep the cost down. I did seriously consider moving after eating here. If you try it, I am sure you’ll see why.
Toro Sushi is located in Lincoln Park at 2546 N. Clark Street, Chicago, IL 60614
Phone: (773) 348-4577