Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Sumi Robata Bar

My first NEW restaurant in Chicago in so long. Phew. Though that will be changing shortly...

Sumi was an idea to try something new. Too bad the weather was still just a bit chilly to sit outside on their cool looking wood deck patio. Instead we sat at the 'bar' next to the robata grill. It seems like there have been a fair number of robatas popping up in Chicago and that's a good thing because I think the style is fun and interesting, though I don't think I'm alone is saying there isn't one really good one in town that everyone gravitates towards. I would add Sumi to the list of good options with some great dishes but overall just above average. The space inside is cool but very small with nice decor, wood everywhere and nice finishes to go around. Two points that stand out to me was that our service was fantastic, always attentive, friendly and very solid with new dishes, grabbing our hot food or filling glasses. The second point is that I felt the value was very skewed (no pun intended). The food was well priced in some places, strangely high in others, and the alcohol extremely poorly priced (without a large and diverse selection either). The overall bill wasn't terrible but the alcohol didn't seem worth it and some dishes were way out of whack.

The cool thing is that everything was served when it was ready and we ordered a bunch of individual grill items so there is a lot of good pictures of the food. We started with a hamachi tartare of sorts, udon noodles, chicken gyoza and a sea bass dish.

This was a course that went two for four. We really liked the chicken gyoza (a simple and standard Japanese starter but done very well) and the udon noodles. The udon was fun and very refreshing. They serve you the noodles on the side to share but with your own mini bowl of sauce to dip them and slurp away. My only complaint here was that the flavor seemed to die with more bites because maybe the watery noodles dilute the sauce with time? Not sure how to fix that but those first bites were great. The sea bass was meh and expensive but served in a very beautiful paper wrapping.

We moved on to the grill section of the menu and tried almost all of the choices: shrimp, scallop, beef slider, skirt steak, pork jowl, chicken thigh and chicken breast. By far and away the slider was the best choice and a run away favorite. Fantastic flavor and really fun. Worth the trip for that. The chicken breast was very tasty and I liked the skirt. The seafood didn't do anything for me and the fatty options of thigh and jowl were flavorful but middle of the road compared to the others.

 The Slider


 Pork jowl


  Chicken breast

We finished off the meal with a dessert that we had seen made 15 times while we ate our food and had to give it a whirl. It was the chocolate filled donuts served with a green tea creme. Fantastic. Should have ordered two, as Kate was still licking the plate and scrapping off chocolate as the server tried to clear our setting. 

Overall it's a fun place to try with a few very good dishes if you're in the mood for robata grill. The service was great and I enjoyed the decor, but I'm not sure about how the menu was priced, particularly the booze. I can see the patio being a great happy hour place to have a cocktail and a few sliders finished with a doughnut. Yum.

Sumi Robata Bar on Urbanspoon

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