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Tanoshii Review – January 2010

5547 North Clark Street
Chicago, IL 60660

Tanoshii is a small(ish) storefront restaurant in Andersonville. It was featured last year on WTTW’s Check Please, so reservations are a must, as there was not a free seat in the restaurant at 8pm on Saturday. One couple, who came in at the same time and didn’t have a reservation, was told they had over an hour wait. Ouch!

We also suggest you keep in mind that Tanoshii is BYOB. Conveniently, there’s a Jewel just across the street in case you forget. We opted for Sapporo and Blue Moon Winter Ale– yes, at Chicago Tiger Sushi we like to have a variety of beer with our raw fish.

For appetizers, we ordered Edamame and Agedashi. We had no complaints with the Edamame, but the Agedashi, which was listed on the menu as fried tofu in sauce, turned out to be lumps of tofu with soggy breading in a bland soup. Not very exciting.

Monishimi, being a tree-hugging environmentalist, noted that the menu offered Bluefin tuna, which is endangered. We were concerned that her head might explode but thankfully the Sapporo helped to ease the pain. She also had reservations about the gastrointestinal effects of Escolar, which we won’t belabor here. (We suggest this Grist article for more about Bluefin, and this Mother Jones article for more info about Escoloar.)

With that in mind, Andutakusan ordered the Kamikaze roll, an Alaskan roll, one piece of Hamachi nigiri, and miso soup. Monishimi ordered the Dragon roll and a Red Caterpillar roll. Hobbes ordered the “Chef Mike’s” special, which gives the sushi chef free reign to create a roll based on your likes and dislikes and is a popular option at Tanoshii.

Andutakusan liked the fact that the Kamikaze roll had lots of spicy mayo on top (but not inside), which made the roll both fresh and spicy at the same time, like the Spice Girls mixed with the Fresh Prince (but not that DJ Jazzy Jeff guy). The miso soup was served in a very shallow bowl, which made it hard to eat: Andy tried to spoon the soup, but the soup wasn’t having any of that. The Alaskan roll was standard fare, as expected, and the Hamachi Nigiri was fresh and delicious. 4 stars (out of 5)

Monishimi thought the Dragon roll was good but not outstanding. The Red Caterpillar roll, which was described as spicy in the menu, was not spicy at all. It was a salty roll and the fish on top of it was mushy. 2.5 stars

Hobbiko told the waitress that he liked his sushi spicy, and that he didn’t like shrimp, octopus, and squid. The “Mike’s Special” that came back was spicy tuna, Bluefin tuna, avocado, and cucumber. The presence of Bluefin earned Hobbiko many dirty looks from Monishimi, while Hobbiko thought the roll was “endangerlicious.” 3.5 stars

The hosts were friendly, but otherwise service was slow and abrupt, and the food did not come out at the same time. At one point we had to wait five minutes before we could flag down a waitress to ask for more soy sauce. Speaking of soy sauce, one particularly unprofessional touch was that, after our meal was finished, the waitress took the dregs of soy sauce from our bowls and consolidated it into one bowl. Hey, do that in the kitchen!

Tanoshii is nicely decorated, with red and pastel walls evoking a sense of calm, but was much too crowded to be a relaxed atmosphere. Whether this is a positive or negative is likely a matter of personal taste. We found it to be a bit chaotic inside, but some may enjoy the lively atmosphere.

The music was a strange mix of 80s hits: Poison (Every Rose has its Thorn), New Kids on the Block, Michael Jackson, Queen, and Tom Petty were just some of the music heard. Now, we’re not saying that every Sushi restaurant needs to be playing downtempo electronic, but… New Kids on the Block? You have to draw a line somewhere.

The bathrooms were small, cold, and disorganized. The soy dishes were too large/wide, and the chopstick were the standard wooden break-apart kind.

Although the food was above average, the waitstaff, music, and the speed of service made for a below average sushi experience. 3 to 3.5 stars for food, but only 2.5 stars overall. We recommend trying Tanoshii on a week night– it’s possible we caught them on an off night.

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