By Annelise Taylor, Loyola Sophomore
YATAI = Ya 5 out of 5!
Local Rogers Park restaurant, Yatai Asian Street food, is a hidden gem for those who love sushi…but are also on a budget.
When Loyola students are asked about their favorite popular sushi restaurant, most will jump to say Nori Sushi on Devon Street. However, Yatai is an authentic Asian street food hole in the wall, that is just down the road from Nori, and has just as quality sushi, but for only half of the price.
Yatai is conveniently located 0.1 miles away from Loyola’s campus, right across from McDonald’s and Aldi Grocery Store. During the times of the pandemic, Yatai hasn’t opened the inside for seating, even though restaurants are allowed a 50% capacity because they greatly value their employee’s health. Because of this, I have only been able to walk into the restaurant to briefly pick up my food. Yatai does not stand out from the street, however, the inside is a different story. Once you walk through the double glass doors, you’ll enter an industrial, yet homey restaurant that displays elegant shiny black chairs and tables, deep brown brick walls, and the sushi chef staged at the back of the restaurant with a glass display case of fresh sushi.
I normally order by phone, but since I was already walking past the restaurant, I figured I’d just pop my head in. I had originally planned to order and then do some grocery shopping at Aldi, assuming that it would take at least 40 minutes to prepare the food considering I was with my friends and we had ordered seven rolls and appetizers. However, they said it would only take 15 minutes. This turnaround time really stood out to me considering normally it takes forever at a sit down sushi restaurant.
It was a simple and easy paying process, and they had terrific hospitality–greeting us when we walked in, and thanking us as we left, as well as a conversation in between.
After revealing the significant amount of sushi onto our table, the food smelled fresh and delicious. The rolls were still warm and the miso was still hot. I ordered the Unagi roll, Crunchy Spicy California roll, California roll, Philadelphia roll, Fly Me To The Moon roll, and two of the New York roll. All of the rolls except for the Fly Me To The Moon were under the standard sushi category and all in between $3.95 and $6.15 for 8 pieces. For reference, at Yatai a California roll is $3.95 and a Unagi roll is $4.95, and at Nori a California roll is $7.50 and a Unagi roll is $10… This is what I would call a screamin’ deal. For someone like myself, living on my own and having to constantly think about tuition, rent, groceries, Ubers, etc, Yatai is a pot of gold at the end of a rainbow. A wonderful break from nights of microwaved dishes.
Each sushi roll was rolled perfectly tight, with no frustrating issues when you go to eat and it falls apart before you can get it into your mouth. The fish and vegetables and rice were all very fresh and tasted delicious all blended together. My favorite roll was by far the Fly Me To The Moon roll. This one also came with a higher price ($12) – as it should because it was double the size per piece and used more expensive ingredients such as eel, crab stick, tamago, cream cheese, mayo, caramel soy sauce, seaweed and rice, all deep fried. This was truly a “melts in your mouth” combination.
After evaluating the quality of the sushi, location, preparation time, and price, Yatai easily earns a 5 out of 5 stars. I will be sure to return to Yatai many times throughout the rest of my time here at Loyola… maybe even next week.