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North Side Restaurant Review: Matsuya

By Laura Oppenheimer in Food on Oct 13, 2006 5:02PM


Finding sushi that is both inexpensive and edible is a difficult task. We’ve tried the cheap stuff. We’ve tried the good stuff. But finding them together had always been a challenge -- until we dropped by Matsuya. on 3469 N. Clark St.

Wrigleyville is pretty much the last place we expected to find Japanese food this good. The restaurant takes up two consecutive storefronts on busy Clark Street making entering the restaurant a tad confusing. Right door or left door? It turns out the restaurant is connected in the back, and the only difference between the two dining rooms is the left door/north room has a sushi bar. The décor is barebones, but what Matsuya lacks in ambiance it more than makes up for with below-market prices and some of the best sashimi we have had in the city.
We ordered one of the many combos available. Ours came with 10 pieces of sashimi, three pieces of Boston roll maki, miso soup, and hot tea. The quality of the sashimi was top-notch; the salmon in particular had a clean, fresh flavor, and a buttery texture. Unagi (barbequed eel) was perfectly sweet and lacked the musty flavor we have found in sushi of a lesser quality. Along with these two pieces of sushi came yellowtail, tuna, octopus, red snapper, egg, shrimp and tuna. The only piece we weren’t particularly fond of was the giant clam, as it was too chewy to enjoy and lacked flavor. Since Chicagoist doesn’t eat giant clam on a regular basis, we weren’t sure if it was Matsuya’s giant clam that we didn’t like, or giant clam in general.

We didn’t want to base our opinion on the nigiri alone, so we also ordered two maki rolls. The Spicy Tuna roll had an unusual spicy mayo; it almost tasted like it was flavored with some sort of roasted red pepper, but it was still a hit. The E.T. roll had shrimp tempura, cucumber and more of the intriguing spicy mayo. The contrast between the crunchy tempura outside and the sweet and chewy shrimp was perfect. After all this food, the next best part of the evening came when we got the bill and realized that all of our food plus a large Sapporo beer to split came to only $35.00!

Matsuya also has a large selection of non-sushi Japanese dishes, like udon and various teriyaki items. We didn’t get a chance to try them on our visit, but we definitely want to try them when we return.