We have just returned from Meiji, where we had the most superb meal - the omakase, or chef's tasting menu. We had seen it mentioned in the review in the current Chicago magazine, but it didn't sound that special. When we got to the restaurant, some of the things I'd been interested in trying were no longer on the menu (which had just changed), so we ordered the omakase. We were glad we did!
The courses were as follows:
1) four small dishes: monkfish liver in a ponzu sauce, "spring" fish in a tempura sauce, mushroom stuffed with eel, salmon with salmon roe and yuzu.
2) clear broth with asparagus tofu, fu, some sort of seaweed, and cherry blossom.
3) sashimi of hamachi, super-fatty belly tuna, live conch and salmon.
4) a plate of three items: cod marinated in miso and broiled, jellyfish in a plum sauce, a forkfull of soba
5) tempura of uni-stuffed shiso leaves.
6) batera (Osaka-style pressed sushi) of saba, unagi and tuna, and a ball-shaped sushi wrapped in salmon, with crab on top.
7) desert of sweet couscous with fresh berries, with mango sorbet and a pastry ribbon.
Everything was wonderful - delicious, sophisticated, light and beautifully presented. There wasn't a false note in the entire meal. None of the items is available on the standard menu. Chef Ishi came out to see how we were doing during the third course, and again at the end of the meal. We were able to say in all honesty that it was the best Japanese meal we'd had in Chicago. And the sake was great, too. The omakase is $95 per person.
Meiji and Matsumoto were both in the Chicago magazine review, and the reviewer's experience of Matsumoto was more or less in accord with what we felt - that the food was quite good, but the surroundings could stand to be spiffed up. I wish Matsumoto well, and we'll certainly go back there - but Meiji rules.
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