Way back in the day, I made my first pilgrimage up to the quaint, yet still bustling northern suburb of Evanston in the middle of one of those horrible January record-breaking freezing spells. I had been on my first date with Mario only a few days before and seeing as he was so charming, I agreed to brave the cold and head up to his neck of the woods to meet up with him again (yes, I was already totally smitten). Having only been in Illinois for a little over five months, I barely knew the city, much less the suburbs, but in the months to follow I would soon come to think of Evanston as my second home. Sixteen years later, I still have a special place in my heart for the suburb, namely because it held such a prominent role in the beginning stages of our relationship; however, in more recent years, it has also morphed into one of my foodie destination spots. Surprisingly, as many fantastic restaurants as there are in Chicago, a few of my all-time favorites can actually be found just across the city line. So of course, when Koi invited Ashley and me up to Evanston to sample their newest sushi offerings, I knew it was meant to be!
As has been well-documented on this blog, I am a straight up sushi fiend, so it should come as no surprise that I actually paid my first visit to Koi shortly after they opened back in 2004. However, due to a combination of factors (Mario moved back to the city with me, which decreased my time spent in Evanston, and I discovered that our new neighborhood was just teeming with so many awesome sushi options), I hadn't managed to make my way back up to the restaurant in over ten years. Nevertheless, as soon as Ashely and I walked into Koi, I knew I was in for a whole new experience, as the decor and menu were quite different from when they first opened their doors. Situated in the heart of Evanston's downtown area, Koi offers a modern, cozy atmosphere with beautiful floor-to-ceiling windows that spill out onto the busy Davis Street - a seat next to the windows is perfect for people like me who love a good people-watching session with their meal!
We kicked off our meal with edamame and drinks - while the cocktail menu looked delightful, we chose to have sober lunch (for once!). I chose the absolutely addictive and lovely Raspberry Summer Soda, which was almost as fun to photograph as it was to drink.
Ashely went with the more traditional Jasmine Tea, which was served in the cutest little pot offering a perfect view of the tea blossom.
As we perused the vast amount of sushi offerings (the menu is huge!), we happily slurped on some Miso and Hot & Sour Soups.
We paired our soups with the Octopus Salad with Soy Vinaigrette Dressing. This is one of those salads that I could eat every single day! The pungent vinaigrette perfectly complemented the tender, thinly shaved octopus - it was really one of the best octopus salads I've ever had.
As we were completely indecisive when it came to the rolls (we easily could have ordered just about the entire menu!), we took the manager's advice and started out with the Dragon Fire Maki: shrimp tempura topped with salmon, super white tuna, tobiko, green onion, spicy mayo, and unagi sauce, then baked and served warm. I'm sure all the sushi purists out there would turn up their noses at this roll, but I fell hard for this delicious dish! This rich and totally messy roll was the epitome of everything that is good about Americanized sushi. Trust me when I say that you need to sop up as much of the unagi sauce as possible - there's so much deliciousness!
As much as we enjoyed the first roll, we both gasped in delight when our server brought out this beautiful Lobster Maki with tempura fried lobster, cucumber, avocado, and lettuce topped with unagi sauce, spicy mayo, and FOUR different kinds of tobiko. Not only was this roll seriously photogenic (so much tobiko!), but also it made our lobster-loving hearts extremely happy. We both swooned over the lobster/avocado combination and appreciated that the roll wasn't too heavy, thanks to the lettuce filling.
We rounded out our order with a few of my favorite sashimi picks: Hotategai (scallops), Namasake (salmon), and Tamago (sweet egg omelet). While each piece was perfectly presented, I was particularly impressed by the sweet, silky scallops. If you've never ventured onto the sashimi side of the menu, these impeccable scallops are a great place to start (they're also an ideal pick for seasoned sashimi lovers!).
Finally, we ended our meal with two of Koi's most popular desserts, the first being the Green Tea and Mango Mochi, served on a platter of chocolate, vanilla, and raspberry sauces. Neither of us can ever pass on mochi and we were both super happy we saved room for this squishy, creamy dessert.
After devouring the mochi, we moved on to the Tempura Battered Bananas served with ice cream and chocolate sauce. Fried bananas + ice cream + chocolate sauce = total dessert win!
You can try all of this deliciousness and more at Koi: 624 Davis St, Evanston, IL.
Disclosure: I received a complimentary meal to facilitate this post. Review and all opinions are my own.