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Spotlight On: Kohan Japanese Restaurant

By Chuck Sudo in Food on Jan 16, 2006 9:40PM

2006_01_Kohan1.jpgThe one new restaurant in University Village Marketplace that arouses our curiosity the most is Kohan Japanese Restaurant. There is such a glut of sushi bars in Chicago that even the addition of a small, nondescript place like Kohan feels like supersaturation. But diversity is the spice of life, or so goes the adage, and if your personality is such that you simply want sushi without the extra trappings of dim lights, exposed brick walls, loud music, and fake breasts then Kohan should be on your short list of places to visit. The one place that Chicagoist would compare to Kohan is Oysy, and even Oysy seems a bit too much like a lounge compared to Kohan.

The decor of Kohan is a tasteful blend of East-meets-West. Wall-mounted, Oriental-styled boxed light fixtures and paper lanterns blend with polished blond wood tones and an exposed kitchen equipped with a teppan grill to give Kohan a sense of immediacy. The lighting is warm, maybe a bit too bright (Chicagoist visited near the end of their Friday lunch hours; we assume they were getting ready for the turnover to dinner) and the tables are close, but not too close that one might feel like he's eavesdropping on another party's conversation.

The owners of Kohan say that what they make is "fashion" sushi. Given the recent trends of local sushi bars adding special sauces and spices to make their food look more appetizing- and to curtail soy sauce abuse- Chicagoist takes this to mean that Kohan serves unadorned, naked sushi. And not the kind that comes served on a belly dancer named Tiffany, either. Kohan uses the freshest fish and emphasizes maki, which they feel is underappreciated in other places.

2006_01_kohan3.jpgIndeed, their prices reflect that emphasis, ranging from $4 for a cucumber roll to $10 for rainbow and caterpillar rolls. Conversely, nigiri at Kohan is a bit pricey; at an average of $2.50 a piece you're better off getting the sushi lunch special ($9.95 for five pieces of nigiri and eight pieces of California roll). The Maki lunch special costs $9.50 and includes a half Californian roll, half spicy tuna roll, salmon roll, inari, and one piece of shrimp nigiri. The maki is as advertised: the vinegared rice and seaweed wrap in the maki had a slight tangy flavor that complemented the salmon perfectly. As for the nigiri, it may cost more but is worth the extra cash. The cuts of fish served were very crisp, not springy or spongy. And the cuts were so large that they overlapped their respective rice beds, probably to stymie anyone trying to dip their nigiri into soy sauce rice side down.

2006_01_kohan4.jpgDinner at Kohan is also a bit pricey. Their specialty rolls range from $10 for a "UIC roll" (deep fried crab, smelt egg, spicy tuna, cucumber, asparagus, and avocado) to $20 for a "Rock'n roll" (a baked California roll stuffed with baby lobster, white and albacore tuna, homemade sauces, and served flaming). For you diners who subscribe to the "kill it and grill it" rule of eating be prepared to really pay. With the exception of the vegetable delight dinner teppan dinners start at $15.95 for teriyaki calamari to $21.95 for filet mignon. Steak, shrimp, and chicken combo entrees range between $18.95 to $23.95. Lobster combos run from $25.95 to $29.95.

Chicagoist recommends Kohan because it's not trying to be something it isn't. They're just making great sushi and hoping that the quality of their food is enough to draw up word of mouth. The costs we just listed may scare some folks but the quality of the food is worth it. Kohan is working on acquiring its liquor license; until then it's BYOB. So you can buy a nice bottle of rieseling or sake from Lush Wine and Spirits around the corner to complement your meal. Kohan is located at 730 W. Maxwell Street and the phone number is (312) 421-6254 (MAKI).