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Saiko, Japanese for hip scene with average food (long)

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Saiko, Japanese for hip scene with average food (long)

Rich4 | Mar 19, 2004 11:35 AM

I went to Saiko last night with two accomplices, who shall remain unnamed for corporate expense account reasons, to try this new restaurant in the South Loop.

We arrived around 9:30. Clearly they were prepared to accommodate later diners, as it seemed much more like a late nite scene for younger city dwellers to burn cash for pseudo-Japanese food. Saiko is owned by the same group that owns Marche and Opera, and they put a lot of investment in the atmosphere which was certainly original and sometimes jarring. The cement walls were mostly spray-painted with artwork ranging from faux graffiti to fish to a naked woman in bright colors. There is also a huge glowing neon sign welcoming you as you walk in saying “Hotel” and presumably the same in Chinese characters. The tables, furniture, lighting, music, wait staff is all very stylish.

Their menu is half sushi bar, half cooked food. The high ticket item was a 16 oz Kobe steak for $99. Most entrees were around $28-38, appetizers $10-15. We tried the following, with comments attached. Some of the dishes had slightly different, more stylized names that I cannot remember right now.

Breaded, fried shrimp with shrimp hash and spicy aioli – we all enjoyed this one, the sauce nicely complemented the shrimp

Lobster and pork gyoza – very disappointing, lobster was really overshadowed

Miso soup – was nice with lots of enoki mushrooms, but what’s up with the cherry tomatoes in the miso broth?

Sashimi platter with a few pieces of nigiri – tasted fine, but pricey compared to what you could get at other sushi bars.

Tempura soft shell crab over udon noodles with snap peas, scallions, some cilantro, and other less identifiable stuff – crab was nice, but verdict on the noodles was mixed. I didn’t like the mixture, and thought it was not a place for long thick noodles to be mixed in like a salad.

Pan-fried striped bass over tempura asparagus – they cooked the fish well, and it was tasty.

Long list of wines and sakes. I wasn’t crazy about the one we ordered, but kept quiet as I was not the one who chose it or paid for it.

By now you’ve noticed how un-Japanese this is restaurant is, and that’s true. While their sushi is fine, and they do have some more creative rolls that I did not try, I found it to be expensive as a sushi bar alone. I really didn’t find many of the entrees to be appealing enough to want to order them. To appreciate it, if you appreciate it, you would have to get into their own creations, or bask in their cool, hip atmosphere, which I really did not do. I was looking for new and creative fusion cuisine that added more than Japanese or Western food alone. In fusion cuisine, I want 2 + 2 to equal 6, but I only got 2 on the food. You could give them more points for atmosphere, but as just a ‘hound it didn’t appeal to me.

Saiko
1307 S Wabash

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