Asaka Japanese Restaurant & Sushi Bar

Authentic Japanese cuisine. Taka, the owner is very friendly and enthusiastic. $1 sushi specials during happy hour.

Although Emily prefers the salad dressing at other Japanese restaurants, Asaka is known for high-quality sushi at reasonable prices. They even honor requests for “no roe” when you order a sushi sampler.

The Melting Pot

Expensive, yes. Romantic, yes. Fun, also yes. Good, oh yes.

If you’ve never tried fondue, start with the court boullion, rather than the hot oil. This is cooking food in broth rather than deep frying it.

There are several menu options, but we’ve found the best deal is the multi-course dinner which includes salad, cheese fondue, the main entree fondue, and dessert (chocolate, hello!) fondue.

It is, however, very pricey, and although Emily has had several fun experiences at the Melting Pot (even including that time Alan paid for drinks and then drank half of her margarita while she was in the bathroom, and yes, Alan, I still remember that), Chris seems to think it’s too much money to have to cook one’s food oneself. That’s what makes it a fun and intimate dinner experience, and being able to take the time to enjy that with friends or a loved one can make for a relaxing and pleasant evening.

Or, you just do what we did and buy your own fondue set and then fight over who that last mushroom belongs to and who’s been using the blue spear and why is there an extra squash floating around in there?

Bravo! Italian Kitchen

A great place to go on a Tuesday evening after a rough day at work, it’s sure to put a smile on your wife’s face (even before a fat glass of Gabbiano).

The salads are always tasty, although I wish they would use green leaf lettuce instead of iceberg. The chopped is our favorite, with bacon and little bits of tortillas (get dressing on the side, though, or it’s likely to drown). And the bread…ah, the bread. Rosemary and herbs dipped in zesty dipping sauce is a sure way to spoil your dinner, but it would be worth it.

As for entrees, there is nothing that isn’t superb. The chicken marsala is Chris’s new absolute favorite, having set the standard for chicken marsala everywhere. The Pasta Bravo (in a spicy, creamy tomato sauce) is excellent, as well as Penne Mediterranean is Emily’s favorite.
The chicken Milanese pomodoro was acceptable, but after the marsala, there’s just no competition. Emily has tried the margherita pizza before, and it’s OK, but the pasta and grill dishes are what make this place so special.

Make sure you save room for dessert and coffee. Something about their coffee is always wonderful, and the tiramisu is, quite possibly, some of the best in the city.

We know, we know. Bravo is a chain. In a city where chain restaurants all too often top the “best of” lists and shamefully beat out the unique, local joints, we’re comfortable saying that Bravo! is still one of our favorites. It would be great if they outlawed smoking on the patio in the summer, but otherwise we’re happy.

There’s nothing like a small, intimate Italian dinner in a dark corner of an old house that’s been in la familia for decades, but there’s also nothing like a big glass of wine on a Tuesday night in this festive northside restaurant where we know we won’t be disappointed.

Wasabi on 82nd

We went here to celebrate Chris’s raise, so the mood was already pretty chipper. In another celebratory move, we tried sake for the first time. Our waiter was pretty knowledgeable when we asked for a recommendation for sake: he found us something dry, sweet, and it didn’t even burn our faces off. Plus, it comes in little square cups.

One of the true tests of a good Japanese restaurant is the ginger dressing that goes on the iceberg salad. It was just the right kind of flavor: zesty but not too sweet.
The miso soup was, well, miso soup. There aren’t too many different ways to spin it, but it was decent.

The sushi was extremely fresh and dense, just how raw fish should be. We ordered some sort of a chef’s plate, so we took our chances with what was brought to us. Try as we might, we just haven’t been able to enjoy roes of any kind, and our plate had several. Pretty, yes. Tasty, no. One might be better ordering something specific, rather than tempting fate.

All in all, we were happy when we walked into the restaurant, and we were happy when we walked out. Good sushi can be hard to find in the midwest, but Wasabi on 82nd found it and served it to us on square plates.

Bonefish Grill

It was a dark and rainy Tuesday, so what better time to eat out? We’d heard rave reviews from Emily’s folks, and we were in a seafood mood, so we decided to try out this national chain but locally accepted restaurant.

Although the music was a little too loud and a lot too irritating, the decor was relaxing and we liked the mangrove trees on the wall that divided the bar from the dining room. Chris thought the dining room should have been divided a bit more, but I was comfortable after they moved us from the table right next to the loud and verbally expressive kitchen.

The bread was warm and toasty (but why do they only slice it 1/3 of the way through the loaf?!) and the pesto was fresh with olives and basil.

We each ordered the house chopped salad with dinner, and the citrus vinaigrette was crisp and light. In a smart move, they put pine nuts where they didn’t have to (who doesn’t love pine nuts?) and they topped the salad, along with a slice of hearts of palm (corazon de palma, mi esposo amorado).

I was going for something simple, so I ordered the grilled mahi steak, Pan Asian style. Chris went for the parmesan pistachio crusted trout. In a classic case of “I want what he’s having”, I realized that he made the better choice. My fish, while sporting a very tasty Asian teriyaki-style sauce and tasting remarkably fresh, had already been rubbed with seasoning and was so salty it made my mouth pucker. The bed of sauteed greens underneath the fish were so salty even I didn’t like them, and we all know how much I like the leafy greens. The island rice was nothing special, and since the sauce from the fish was touching it, the rice, too, came out salty.

Chris’s fish, on the other hand (would you like some fish with that butter?) was delicious. Lightly breaded and zesty with cheese, it was crisp and tender in all the right spots. He opted for the sauteed vegetables as a side, and again, it acted as a vehicle for the butter.

One request: although the wine list was fairly decent, add more dry, sweet whites, like a chenin blanc. Perhaps a glass would have made me a little more tolerable.

All in all, we enjoyed Bonefish. We may visit again, although next time I’ll opt for the warm mango salsa and try a different side dish. The daily specials may have been worth investigating, too, and had we not been so tired, the key lime pie was sounding mighty good…

Puccini’s Smiling Teeth

I’d heard so many good things from other people about this place; Chris has enjoyed it in the past and enjoyed his chicken marsala. They used sweet marsala, however, and the carmelization of the onions made it almost too sweet. Delicious, though. My pomodoro was average…nothing too special. It’s a shame I make myself order the “healthy” dishes and don’t let myself get something with multiple cheese or sausage. Everything smelled good and with the exception of the weird lady sitting at the booth next to us, everyone was very friendly and smily for a Tuesday night.

Sapporo Japanese Steak House & Sushi

Sushi in the front, hibachis in the back. Watch out for onion volcanoes and flying shrimp. The hibachi chefs are silly and friendly. It helps you with the realization of how much butter goes into restaurant food, but if you opt for the salad, the dressing is much better here than elsewhere. The sushi section is more restrained. The goldfish stay in the pond. Small children sometimes do, too. A word to the wise, however: they are not equipped to handle large parties, such as, say, a rehearsal dinner.

Tokyo Gourmet Buffet

Traditional and exotic Japanese fare; sushi. Much better than one would expect from a buffet restaurant. Watch out for the tapioca, though

Chalkie’s Restaurant & Billiards

Smoke-free, upscale pool hall with many beers on tap and surprisingly good food (try the french fries…really!). 18 billiard tables. 21 and over only