If you’re a sushi aficionado living in the Chicagoland area, I’m going to assume you were about as devastated as I was when the legendary Sushi Wabi on Randolph was closing in the spring of 2012. That cataclysmic loss sent me on my not-so-merry way through the seven stages of grief. The shock and denial lasted longer than it should have, and there was a period of time where I felt like my life no longer held meaning so long as a gaping void stood where Wabi once was. At long last, however, I made it to the acceptance and hope phase, during which time I began wishing on stars, two at a time, that a restaurant would surface that does sushi as well as Wabi did it.
Then one day, the dedicated masterminds behind my late, great sushi haven collaborated to open Sushi Dokku. Just a hop, skip, and a jump across the street from Sushi Wabi’s vacated home, Sushi Dokku joins the likes of Girl & the Goat and Nellcôte on what some have called West Loop’s slice of hipster Disneyland: Randolph Street.
Sushi Dokku’s storefront is very understated, reflecting the often under-appreciated and under-represented restaurant philosophy of “minimalist design, dynamic food.”
Inside, Sushi Dokku is equally minimalist in its décor. The bar area is heavy on the stainless steel, tossing a nod to West Loop’s industrial chic quality. Clear-front refrigerators situated at eye level flaunt an impressive bevy of tonics and elixirs designed to get you tipsy. The ceiling sports dark blue wooden planks arranged to replicate fishing docks projecting out into the coastal waters of Japan– virtual thoroughfares for fresh-caught fish to complete the transformation process from fisherman’s prize on the hook to a plated chef d’oeuvre garnished with pickled ginger and wasabi.
Unlike many Japanese restaurants in Chicago, Sushi Dokku’s menu is short and sweet. It may not have a list of maki that spans four pages, but what it lacks in prolific options it makes up for in a carefully selected shortlist of some of the finest morsels of food you’ll ever stick in your mouth.
The Fire maki is a throwback off the old Wabi menu, and has been a longtime favorite of mine. The presentation is always impeccable, the heat is enough to tantalize your tongue without the need to gulp water, and the salmon is tempura fried to perfection.
If you want something rich in flavor, order the Godzilla roll. You will annhiliate it.
The Panko Onion roll is basically a glorious Japanese onion ring rolled up into elegant maki. Sushi Dokku offers several great vegetarian options, making it perfect for the meat-eating impaired. Yes, gentlemen, you can bring your pleather-wearing-bleeding-heart-vegan lady friend for a nice date night out– even SHE will find something she loves here.
The Tuna and Microgreens roll might win the award for “most-innovative-yet-simple” offering on the menu. Plump pieces of velvety tuna and fresh, crunchy microgreens never tasted so good as they do now, laden in black pepper unagi sauce. A quick dip in some soy sauce and you’ll swear you’ve just had a spiritual awakening.
End the night with dessert. Sushi restaurants aren’t typically known for aprés sushi sweets, but you’ll be sad you missed out if you don’t order the Fuji apple ice cream served atop a warm slab of spiced cake alllll drenched in thick, melted caramel.
The food coma will be worth it. Sweet dreams.
Check out Sushi Dokku’s website for directions, a detailed menu, and reservation information.