On the surface, Lettuce Entertain You’s latest eatery offers something hundreds of others in the city do, too: sushi. But since it opened late last year, diners are finding something else at Sushi-san. With throwback hip-hop on the speakers (if you’ve been to sister restaurant Ramen-san, you know the soundtrack), funky decor and a lively crowd, they’re finding a scene. But if it’s the bustle that draws you in, it’ll be the hand rolls that bring you back.
Here’s what to expect at Sushi-san:
Approachable fare: “Sometimes it’s intimidating to go to a sushi restaurant,” says general manager Amarit Dulyapaibul. “And it gets really expensive. So we wanted to create an experience where you could come in, you could order a [sashimi] set, have the best bluefin tuna in the city, and be out the door for $40 or $50 per person.”
Super fresh fish: Master Sushi Chef Kaze Chan gets shipments from places like Japan and Spain each day for the maki, nigiri and sashimi. But don’t overlook the rest of the menu: “Some of the unsung heroes are from the charcoal grill,” Dulyapaibul says, pointing especially to the Vietnamese pork with spicy Fresno chilies ($13). “It’s everything that I love about Southeast Asian cuisine.”
A seat at the bar: For a table on a weekend, Dulyapaibul recommends calling two to three weeks in advance, but swing by any day to snag a stool at the walk-ins-only hand roll bar, the only place in the restaurant that offers the superb rolls. An exclusive hand-roll menu includes umami scallop, burnt avocado and the must-try crunchy fatty tuna ($5-$16 each). Another option: Reserve one of the four seats directly in front of Chef Kaze for an “Oma-Kaze” dining experience ($88, three seatings per night, Tuesday through Saturday).
Dessert with personality: The final-course menu reads like a comic book, drawn by Lettuce’s in-house illustrator Alex Payne (who started as a bartender at R.J. Grunts, until owner Rich Melman saw his artistic ability on display on the restaurant’s chalkboards a few years ago). The Emochi ($3 each) are adorable and delicious, but the real star is the Japanese breakfast pancakes with matcha butter ($8).
63 W. Grand, (312) 828-0575; Sushisanrestaurant.com
Photos by Zoe Rain