An auxiliary meeting of the Chowhounds Willing To Blow $80 On Sushi subcommittee met last night at Katsu, gem of the far north side. Unlike the hundreds you can get out for cheap Chinese food or eyeball tacos, this group numbered only four. Or six, if you count Katsu and Mrs. Katsu coming over and embracing G Wiv multiple times as the long-lost brother he surely is. (Gatsu.)
Again, marvels and wonders, all remembered too impressionistically to precisely detail: the most mind-blowing buttery salmon, striped with fat like a zebra and melt in your mouth rich; crunchy fresh tobiko in multiple fluorescent colors coating the outside of rolls like candy sprinkles; maguro as soft and translucent as Thanksgiving cranberry jelly; a taste comparison of raw amberjack and grilled amberjack jaw (the raw, surprisingly, won); squid with shiso leaves, and little rolls with shiso and plum, both of which tasted, not surprisingly, mainly like shiso leaf. And of course, the thing that makes the moderately high prices worthwhile, a fish to rice ratio where the fish sloped over the small rice ball and had room to spread out in all directions, like a pancake over a scoop of butter.
Some other things were not as impressive-- the duck saikyo, so superb and tender on my first visit, was cooked past the rare it should have been-- but even if the raw clearly beat the cooked, it remains impressive that Katsu manages the rare feat of doing both well.
Interestingly, a fair part of the conversation hinged on the most modest item-- the usual bowl of miso broth. One would think that if there was any place where Katsu could cut a few corners, it would be miso broth. Probably just have a Sysco dispenser of it, refilled by giant miso tank trucks which roam the city day and night, delivering identical product to every Japanese restaurant. But no, this was the finest miso I have had, the first miso perhaps that really had a three-dimensional brothy richness, like real bonito slow-cooked to release its flavor rather than a packet of Lipton Insta-Bonito emptied into a pot. Arigato, Katsu.
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