Tanoshii is one of Chicago’s most popular sushi restaurants, located in the trendy Andersonville neighborhood on the city’s far North Side. Opened since 2004, this tiny, but cozy restaurant features your typical Japanese/American fare, such as chicken teriyaki, salmon teriyaki, a few Udon (noodle) dishes, miso soup and the ubiquitous shrimp tempura, which is served here as an appetizer. Pretty standard fare that you see at most Japanese restaurants, but what makes this place truly special is the sushi, the artful presentations and the one and only “Sushi Mike.”
His real name is Mike Ham (which he can be!), the head chef (and owner) at Tanoshii Sushi, who’s been here ever since leaving his former namesake Hama Matsu years ago. At the latter, he built up quite a following, eventually deciding to stake a claim out on his own, which I, along with others, are eternally grateful for. Mike is a skilled craftsman at creating sushi masterpieces, which in my eyes are like pieces of art. Almost too good to eat, but not quite. He makes his customers feel at ease with his effervescent personality, which I quickly discovered is one of the reasons why his restaurant is so full of people while other nearby restaurants are half-empty or have closed the door. Read Kingfisher.
Let’s start with my most recent outing.
Food highlights – For starters, my companion and I ordered the Andersonville maki roll, which came with shrimp, crab, cream cheese, cucumber and masago. Simply outstanding. “Sushi Mike” highly recommended it and boy were we glad we took the bait — sorry for the pun. Everything was fresh tasting, especially the shrimp and crab, like it had just been caught. We also ordered one of Mike’s signature dishes, fish-n-chips, a cornucopia of spicy tuna fillet, onion, cilantro and black pepper neatly piled high on crisp tortilla chips. It was the perfect combination, not too spicy, just right and almost too good to eat. I said almost. But we gave into our desires and ate each and every morsel. Two thumbs up, or should I say 4. We could’ve easily gone for seconds, that’s how good it was. FYI, this is not on the menu, you have to ask for it. So ask for it.
Reviews – Although I’ve read varying reviews of Tanoshii, ranging from, “awful” to “outstanding”, I think it’s best to go there for yourself and decide. When I went the first time I didn’t have any problem with the wait staff or service, maybe because it was after rush hour and later in the evening. I also sat at one of the tables, not the bar where “Sushi Mike” does his schtick. Although my first visit I played it safe and ordered the serviceable chicken teriyaki, sticky rice and the predictable miso soup my bill came to approximately $25, including tax & tip. Although it was tasty, I thought is was kind of pricey considering the meager portion size. But the second go-around, I decided to bring a companion and go straight for the sushi. Plus, we sat at the bar where “Sushi Mike” thoroughly entertained us with his unique brand of charm and wit.
Tab & then some – You could easily spend $100 or more at Tanoshii for 2 people, which is due mostly to the high cost of importing fresh fish and the rent at its current location. Andersonville is quickly turning into a trendy neighborhood with high-end restaurants popping up all over the place. And with those kind of places steep prices always follow.
One more thing about the sushi, you’re not getting fillers. Plus the fish has to be shipped in, they don’t get it from Lake Michigan!
Just so you know this is a BYOB, with a $1 corkage fee.
Tanoshii is located at 5547 N Clark St
(between Bryn Mawr Ave & Gregory St)
Chicago, IL 60640