Apart from going to school, what do Thai students do in Chicago? They make sushi.
The glasshouse dining area is a popular spot.
In recent years, all the youngsters from the Windy City I've come across _ friends, friends of friends, siblings of friends (mostly undergrads) _ seem to have been involved in the sushi business. Even though Chicago can't be compared with New York or San Francisco when it comes to the number of Japanese restaurants, the city is regarded among the younger generation of sushi diners in Bangkok as the world's best for its American-style modern twist.
Maki Maki, which opened a few months ago on the top floor of a quiet, tucked-in-a-small-sub-soi community plaza, is evidence of such a sensation. Its proprietors, fresh-faced and young, used to work at some of Chicago's top sushi bars. Now they're back home and ready to showcase one of the culinary traits Chicago is famous for.
The newly-opened sushi bistro is professionally decked out to boast fresh, contemporary ambience _ a smart blend of industrial chic setting and a lovely glasshouse.
Set at a raised corner, the glasshouse hall is a favourite dining spot in the evening and is even available for a private function.
As the name suggests, Maki Maki's menu offers mainly sushi rolls (called maki in Japanese), with varieties ranging from the typical American-style inside-out sushi rolls to the restaurant's many signature creations.
Our dinner started off with an appetiser dish of seared tuna with truffle (390 baht). It presented succulent fillets of maguro tuna in thick rectangular pieces that were lightly cooked to provide a genuinely flavoursome taste that, other than a drizzle of salt and truffle oil, required no extra seasoning.
Another starter we had was Poseidon on Fire (270 baht). The big-name dish, made with scallop, crab meat and crab stick, was offered in a smaller portion, but was set aflame and had the flavour profile of a Korean spicy seafood delicacy.
The restaurant's signature, BKK Maki (370 baht), and for me, the most familiar representative of Chicago-style sushi, came next. Fresh chunks of reddish tuna and pale-pink hamaji (yellowtail) came rolled with avocado and fresh coriander in well-seasoned sushi rice that finished up with crispy tempura flakes.
For those in the mood for rich and creamy sushi, go for the Dragon Fly (350 baht). It's a hefty roll of prawn tempura with avocado, sushi rice and cream cheese, artistically dredged with mayonnaise and sweet eel sauce.
My personal favourite of the evening was Beauty and the Leaf (480 baht). Not that I fell for the "beauty" nor leaf-like presentation of this house-invented maki. I like the fact that this sushi roll was different from many others for emphasising more on the sharp taste of fruit and vegetables and not the creaminess of avocado and cream cheese. Presenting fresh salmon, scallop and crunchy asparagus in sushi rice and nori seaweed, the delicacy was lent a uniquely pleasant taste by lime zest. It's a perfect sushi option for those who don't want a cloying mouthfeel, but a light and refreshing sushi that's as substantial in texture.
Two friends voted To Die For Maki (590 baht) as Maki Maki's most gratifying dish. They loved the fact that this sushi, arranged in a shape of a flower, offered the real deal _ otoro (fatty tuna belly) and flying fish roe _ without the sushi rice. Lending a richer smoother taste to the hearty sushi was fresh quail egg yolk which had the egginess was toned down nicely by the addition of chopped green onions. To wrap up our sushi journey, we were recommended an uni shot (390 baht). A sinful gulp of all things sumptuous and adventurous, the shot consisted of raw quail egg, silky gonads of sea urchin and chopped scallions topped with flying fish roe in lemon-infused sake.
The restaurant has a decent list of wines, sake and Japanese-style cocktails. Try the sparkling sake jelly (290 baht), which comes in peach or berry flavour choices, and you won't regret it.
BELOW Beauty and the Leaf highlights the sharp taste of fruit and vegetables.
BOTTOM Fresh chunks of reddish tuna and pale-pink hamaji rolled with avocado, coriander and sushi rice.
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