North Side Review: Tank Sushi
By Andrew Jenkins in Food on Nov 3, 2006 6:00PM
To make it in our book of “Sushi Restaurants We Will Frequent," a place must do a couple of things right. Along with the right scene, we like to see some creative flavor combinations on the maki side and downright freshness with the nigiri and sashimi. We’d heard middle-of-the-road reviews of Tank — praise for presentation and fish quality, and disdain for price and uber-trendy ambiance. After a few visits we found it to be a cozy spot with fresh ingredients, slightly above-average pricing, and flavors that both didn’t excite or disappoint.
Chicagoist recently stopped by on a Saturday night and then early one Wednesday evening, and concluded that Tank’s design, décor and overall vibe might very well be its best attribute. The nice location in Lincoln Square has the neighborhood's raw fish market pretty well cornered. The name and logo are attractive. Inside, a nice attention to lighting creates a warm reddish glow throughout the dining room. The only exceptions are the front two window tables that are over-illuminated thanks to a nearby street lamp. On both trips to Tank the service was attentive but methodical and cold. We were greeted and seated promptly, but the servers rarely made eye contact or smiled. That said, our drinks were never below the three-finger mark and our sushi was beautifully crafted and delivered quickly both times.
Over the course of two meals we tried some safe selections along with a few of Tank’s more inventive creations. Our nigiri (salmon ($6), tuna ($7) and sea bass ($5)) were all delightful two-piece orders — vibrant colors, buttery texture and pleasant flavors. The philly ($8) and shrimp tempura ($13) maki were fresh but otherwise run-of-the-mill. The spicy tuna maki ($8) followed the traditional formula, but we found the roll’s heat to be overpowering. The Alaskan Night maki ($9), named for a black roe topping, consisted of salmon, crab and avocado. Tank’s maki selection does stretch on for three good pages, so along with the staples, we also sampled two fairly creative rolls.
The Latin Heat maki ($14) blended smoked salmon and white tuna with jalapeno, cilantro, chili mayo and avocado. These flavors mixed together perfectly. The hot mayo, jalapeno and cilantro overwhelm at first, but then give way to the subtle smoky salmon, and finally get finished off with the buttery tuna and cool avocado. This little guy (pictured below and to the right) was good-looking, and its flavors were right on.
By simply having fried oyster as an ingredient, the Kaki Fry maki ($10) piqued our interest. Add some sprouts and asparagus for tasty texture, and then ginger and masago mayo for a tart, citric flavor, and you’ve got a winner. This roll’s flavor combinations could, oddly enough, be compared to an Oyster Po’ Boy sandwich — just wrapped in seaweed.
Along with its extensive maki collection, Tank is also known for its Japanese-themed small plates. We got distracted and breezed over that part of the menu, but looking back, the sea scallops with hollandaise could have easily replaced one of our blah maki orders. We also learned that a weekend afternoon, before 6:00 p.m., is the choice time to try Tank for yourself. With half-priced maki during that time you can afford a few lapses in judgment.
Tank Neighborhood Sushi is located at 4514 N. Lincoln Ave. Hours: Mon-Thur. 5:00-10:30 p.m., Fri. 5:00-11:30 p.m., Sat. 1:30-11:30 p.m., Sun. 1:30-10:00 p.m. Phone: (773) 769-2600.