Fact: I am a sushi fiend. I double, triple, and quadruple heart sushi. Seriously, I could eat sushi every day of the week... in fact, there was one lazy week last summer in which I ordered from my favorite neighborhood sushi spot four days in a row (and only broke my streak because I had lunch plans on the fifth day!). While I tend to favor sashimi or simply prepared nigri, I am always up for any type of sushi, be it from the more traditional end or fusion rolls with a heavy Midwestern influence. So of course, when RA Sushi invited me to sample items from their new menu, I immediately grabbed Mario (who loves sushi as much as I do) and booked it down to the Gold Coast for an evening of bites mixing traditional with newer flavors.
The Arizona-based mini-chain offers diners Japanese-inspired dishes and creative cocktails in an upbeat atmosphere filled with energetic music and bright colors. We arrived at the tail end of their Thursday evening happy hour and found the restaurant packed with a young after-work crowd (and yes, they were all very happy by that point).
I was obsessed with the awesome red bubble lamp sculptures and couldn't stop photographing them!
We started our meal with edamame and a round of specialty cocktails; I chose the Blushing Geisha: lemonade mixed with Skyy Raspberry Vodka, Chambord & lemon sour. Wooeeee... this delicious little cocktail was perfectly balanced and deceptively strong. I think the menu description says it all: "looks innocent but look again, she might not be."
Mario chose a more traditional (but just as delicious!) cocktail: Emperor's Margarita, made with Patrón Silver, Combier Liqueur d’Orange, lime juice, Japanese yuzu & agave nectar.
Our appetizer plate contained a sampling of each of RA's seasonal specials: Red Sebream Carpaccio, Red Seabream Nigiri, Tuna California Roll, and the Langostino Strawberry Salad. While I enjoyed all of the specials, it should come as no surprise that I really loved the Red Sebream Carpaccio and the nigiri; both bites were so fresh and bright! I also appreciated the addition of the truffle salt, which gave the fish a lovely earthiness.
Red Sebream Carpaccio: sliced Red Seabream and lemon topped with spicy yuzu dressing, organic micro greens, truffle salt & lemon zest
Red Seabream Nigiri: Red Seabream on rice, topped with spicy yuzu dressing & truffle salt
Tuna California Roll: classic California Roll topped with a tuna mix of avocado, cucumber, bell pepper and cilantro, finished with togarashi, garlic chips & black pepper soy sauce
Langostino Strawberry Salad: Langostino, strawberries, cucumber and avocado over arugula; tossed in citrus vinaigrette and served with kiwi wasabi sauce & truffle salt (such a fun mix of flavors!)
After our seasonal tasting, we moved over to the specialty roll side of the menu. Of course, we had to start with the roll that RA is known for, the Viva Las Vegas Roll: crab and cream cheese rolled in rice and seaweed, lightly tempura battered and topped with spicy tuna, crab mix and sliced lotus root, finished with a sweet eel sauce & spinach tempura bits.
This was unlike any other roll I've had before - there were so many different flavors and textures, but they all manged to work together in perfect harmony. Plus, you can't beat the beautiful presentation!
We then moved on to the Shrimp Calamari Tempura Roll: calamari and shrimp tempura with cucumber, avocado and cream cheese, rolled and topped with crunchy tempura bits, served with sweet eel sauce. Granted, this is a fairly standard roll, but I have to say that I really enjoyed RA's version, thanks to the seriously addictive sweet eel sauce!
We ended with another of RA's specialty rolls, the RAllipop: tuna, salmon, yellowtail and spicy tuna mixed with lettuce, asparagus & cucumber wrapped in lobok, served skewered with garlic ponzu sauce. Again, RA wins for presentation! I also enjoyed their use of lobok - the mild, crisp flavor allowed the combination of fish to take center stage.
Seriously, how cute is this sushipop?!
Although we were completely stuffed, we couldn't leave without trying the Sweet Mochi Trio (strawberry, vanilla, and mango) after our server raved about it. The sweet traditionally prepared mochi ice cream was the perfect ending to our night!
In addition to the seasonal specials, RA Sushi is also currently hosting its largest annual fundraiser, Nicky’s Week, through Sunday, May 31. During Nicky’s Week, RA Sushi will donate 100 percent of sales from a variety of menu items and beverages to St. Jude to help support the hospital’s lifesaving mission.
You can try all of this deliciousness and more at RA Sushi: 1139 N. State St., Chicago, IL.
Disclosure: I received a complimentary meal to facilitate this post. Review and all opinions are my own.