By: Jules Galway (Loyola Sophomore)
As a Loyola student and all things sushi lover, I’ve been flooded with a diverse array of dining options since stepping on campus. Though it seems like students are focused on only two local restaurants for their sushi needs; Yatai and Nori.
In my sophomore year, I made my first visit to one of these restaurants at Yatai. Since then, I fell in love with their place as their prices were not only reasonable, but some of the cheapest sushi prices I’ve seen.
Slowly but surely, Yatai started becoming a weekly take-out treat on Sundays while my friend group and I watched HBO Max’s House of the Dragon, but in my mind I knew there was another place I needed to try. The rave reviews from friends and online Yelp users insisted that Nori was a better option, so I knew I had to put these two sushi joints head to head in a battle for the best dining experience.
Nori Sushi at Edgewater: 1235 W Devon Ave, Chicago, IL 60660
Upon entering Nori, you’re greeted with vibrant art with pops of color that won’t cease to keep you visually interested. Their menu is complete with drinks, desserts, appetizers and a wide variety of entree options. Whether you’re in the mood for sushi, maki, rice bowls, ramen, etc., Nori has you covered.
While there, I ordered their Thai iced tea, crab rangoon, the Nori Sushi Ume platter (five pieces of assorted traditional sushi with one california maki roll) with spicy miso soup, and a side of spicy mayo for all my dipping needs. With their Sushi Ume platter comes a complementary miso soup, though you can choose to make it spicy for an extra dollar.
If you’re new to sushi, I would hands down recommend ordering the same platter, as it provides enough basics and variations to be a palatable experience even for newer sushi customers. In my platter, the chef chose to prepare hamachi, tuna, escolar, smoked salmon, and shrimp sushi, of which the shrimp and hamachi stole the show. My boyfriend, who accompanied me on my mission, had ordered their Shrek roll of which I stole two pieces and thoroughly enjoyed.
Their California roll was tightly wrapped and topped with masago, ripened fish eggs, and was a solid decision for newbies as well. Whether you choose soy sauce, spicy mayo, or no dipping sauce, the sushi and maki is wonderful.
However, I have to talk about their crab rangoons. As a certified crab rangoon lover, I have to say I was slightly disappointed in their version. Their version opted to use a crispy spring roll wrapping, which was thinner and less flavorful than rangoons wrapped in fried wonton I’ve had in the past, and their sweet and sour sauce lacked the usual thicker viscosity and louder flavors I adore.
Apart from food, the ambience and service were wonderful. The plating of the dishes was beautiful and provided an experience with each course. Additionally, as the platter displayed the assorted sushi as the chef’s choice, the waitress explained what each nigiri piece was and was kind throughout our entire meal, checking on us multiple times but did not feel overbearing whatsoever.
Yatai Asian Street Food: 6230 N Broadway, Chicago, IL 60660
Located .3 miles from Nori is a mom-and-pop style restaurant with a darker, more intimate atmosphere. Their menu is very similar to Nori’s, though it contains differing styles of maki rolls and entree items.
As a year-long Yatai customer, I’ve tried a variety of these menu items. In my opinion, their stand-out items include crab rangoons, pineapple fried rice with chicken, and miso ramen. As for their rolls, I prefer a sweet potato roll, crunchy spicy California, or their specialty roll called Fly Me to the Moon.
On this trip, I tried to replicate my Nori order and opted for their Thai iced tea, crab rangoon, spicy miso, crunchy spicy California, salmon nigiri, and shrimp nigiri. Their crunchy spicy california roll was perfect for someone who wants an added flavor profile to the famous roll and their nigiri was identical in taste and appearance to Nori’s.
Though I have to say, Yatai has crab rangoons that are absolutely out of this world. The flavors meld perfectly together and the deep fried wonton wrapping and intense sauce are what sell this menu item to me at every visit.
While Yatai’s cheap prices and large portion sizes are what keep customers coming back, their service may tend to draw people away. Yatai takes a more detached approach for dine-in customers, taking orders at appropriate times yet rarely checking on the table in between ordering. One may be confused once presented with the bill as no matter how large the party or subtotal, they place an automatic gratuity on each bill with a service charge.
While the biggest difference in these two places is hands down the price, these two restaurants are very similar in menu and quality of their food. In both restaurants, the portion sizes are fair in today’s standard and are definitely places you can’t skip during your stay in Rogers Park.
If you’re looking to impress and aren’t too price sensitive, I’d recommend taking your guests to Nori for a beautiful plating and service experience. However, if you’re looking for something more intimate with the most bang for your buck while still receiving great food, look no further than Yatai.
As for my personal opinion, I’d have to stick with Yatai. Being a college student makes it hard to find food for a cheap price and with Yatai, I can guarantee myself a good meal with extra to take home for later.