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Saturday, February 16

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My favorite thing about Green Tea, a teeny Japanese restaurant on Clark Street in Lincoln Park, isn't the smiling staff or the decent prices. Nor is it the fact that it offers some of the freshest sashimi I've had in Chicago. Don't get me wrong: These things are certainly terrific; but my favorite thing about Green Tea is the small sign hanging inside the front door that reads, "See You Tomorrow!" In my opinion, Green Tea has earned the right to be so cocky.

When I used to live in that neighborhood about a year ago, my roommate and I made a habit of ordering takeout from this place, our usual being bowls of miso soup and an order of sticky rice along with the "Sashimi A" combo (14 pieces of fresh raw fish), all for only about $15 per person. And the sashimi, as I alluded to before, was phenomenal: huge, succulent pieces that melted in your mouth. Even though my visits became few and far between when I moved north, I could never get Green Tea out of my head.

I stopped in last week with a friend to see how the place had fared in a year and was delighted to see that not much had changed. A cheerful woman from behind the counter greeted us and immediately showed us to one of the few tables in the place. To be honest, this was the first time I had ever actually dined in Green Tea -- the place only seats 17 and so usually I had been forced to make do with takeout. But, as it was early on this particular Tuesday evening, we were the first people to arrive.

The menu at Green Tea is very simple -- maki and sushi/sashimi pieces make up the bulk of the menu, with a few appetizers and salads thrown in for a bit of variety. Instead of trying to wow customers with tons of ingredients and crazy creations, Green Tea relies on freshness of product and beauty of presentation to set itself apart from the barrage of other sushi spots in the city. However, due to its simplicity, Green Tea is not ideal destination for non sushi eaters as they have avoided adding many cooked options to the menu.

A small dish of cold, complimentary edamame was a nice start to the meal. My friend and I ordered steamed shrimp dumplings and wasabi wrapped pork dumplings (one of the night's specials) as appetizers. The shrimp dumplings were small and dainty while bursting with fresh shrimp. They were wrapped in a paper-thin layer of dough that all but dissolved when you dipped it in the accompanying spicy soy-based dipping sauce. The pork dumplings were even better: tasty pork wrapped in a thin layer of wasabi colored dough that burned our nasal passages as they went down.

Next, we split a salmon tempura maki (also a special) that was quite unlike any roll I've ever had before. Salmon mixed with spicy mayo was rolled in rice, covered with tempura, fried and then doused in a sweet teriyaki sauce. The roll was warm, crunchy and delicious. I would definitely order this dish but would eat it quicker next time -- the longer it sits, the tougher the tempura becomes.

After we finished this course, our server brought my meal to the table. I had ordered the sashimi appetizer with two pieces each of tuna, yellow tail, salmon and white fish. The presentation was gorgeous: mouthwatering fish laid out on a bed of beautiful flower garnish fashioned from cucumbers and radishes. And the fish itself was just as amazing I remembered.

The only problem? My friend's entree -- the winter maki -- was nowhere to be found. Our server assured us it was on the way and apologized profusely, however, 15 minutes later we were still sans roll. He was able to forget his annoyance once the roll finally arrived because it was so good: a refreshing creation of shrimp, crab, cucumber and white radish wrapped in thin slices of cucumber and topped with a flavorful miso sauce. But this major bump was disappointing given that the rest of our experience was almost perfect.

Green Tea isn't cheap, but for sushi, it is a very fair deal. Most of the maki runs from $2.50 to $5.50 with the special rolls going for about $7 to $10. The sushi/sashimi combos are decently priced as well, and the sashimi appetizer described above can definitely feed one person and is priced at a modest $10.95. This place also has great lunch specials for around $10. And while the unadorned space isn't quite where I'd party with a group of friends on a Saturday night, Green Tea is definitely where I'd go for a fresh, quality meal. Sound good? Well, then, see you tomorrow!

Green Tea is located at 2206 N. Clark Street. It is closed on Mondays.

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Comments

Kim / August 30, 2004 8:09 PM

I'm so glad someone did a write up on Green Tea. I've always felt it's one of the best sushi joints that you've never heard of.

 

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Kim Conte loves to write and eat, and dreams that one day someone will pay her a lot to do both.

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