Happy belated cinco de mayo folks! I can’t believe it’s May already! Well, time for another posting.
Many friends ask, “Where can I go for sushi? Where do you go for sushi?” Well, the minimal level of acceptance is Sea Ranch (provided they didn’t go completely down hill after they started their sushi buffet… more on that later). They offer a more traditional selection of Japanese foodstuffs including whole and cut up pieces of fish, Japanese goods (think mini Mitsuwa), drinks, prepared food stuffs like tamago and on the go sushi rolls, (no formal bentos that I know of), ramen, set plates and of course, the sushi buffet.
Before they did the all you can eat sushi buffet, Sea Ranch’s sushi was decent. Actually, there are two Sea Ranch locations. This one is in Evanston, right off the Dempster purple line train station, 2 blocks away from the infamous Weiner and Still Champion. The other is in Wilmette, IL. The Wilmette location is bigger and has a larger selection of seafood for purchase (as a fishmonger location). And somehow the Wilmette location gets a website and the Evanston location does not.
So back to the sushi buffet. I haven’t found my photos of doing this sushi buffet so my bad! What I can tell you is that if you don’t finish your sushi leftovers you will be subject to an extra charge, certain rolls are on the buffet menu, all people in your party must participate in the buffet, and just an FYI, come in at LEAST an hour and a half before closing because the buffet is as you order and takes a while to make by the 2 sushi makers on staff. They will not open later just for you.
While their Tonkotsu Ramen isn’t as good as Santouka in Mitsuwa, it’s an ok filler on a cold day. Many a day I spent slurping down this porky ramen based soup because it was within walking distance. Topped with bamboo shoots, corn, spinach, seaweed, green onions, bean sprouts and a single naruto slice (kamaboko/fish cake), it was a satisfying dish. And if you get a set as pictured here, they give you california rolls to eat with. Combining the rolls with ramen may seem kind of strange but in fact, it is not. In Japan, it is not uncommon to get an onigiri or some cha-han (fried rice) with your ramen order to round it out.
On other days, I’d settle for a chirashi bowl set. Chirashi is basically a bunch of sashimi slices, cut veggies, roe, etc. on top of sushi rice. In this particular bowl there were sliced cucumbers, tamagoyaki (sweet omelette), roe, salmon, cooked shrimp, red tuna, snapper, and imitation crab. If you’re uneasy about eating fish that is not in a roll or nigiri style, you shouldn’t. Check out the included list of toppings and if you can handle them, go for a chirashi! Since I ordered a set, it comes with a small bowl of hot udon. Sure, the udon isn’t the greatest, but it helps digest the meal down and is a nice change of texture and flavors during the meal.
A chirashi bowl is like a bunch of deconstructed nigiris in a bowl. Plus, any sashimi featured in a chirashi bowl will always be better quality than a sushi buffet. Don’t be surprised about the fish quality in a buffet because you’ll usually get more inferior cuts and more rice to fill you up. So keep that in mind if you intend to buffet it up.
BE usually orders the uni chirashi bowl set. If you can eat uni (sea urchin!), fish roe in both large and small size as well as squid and scallops, then this might be of interest to you. However, I don’t see anyone ordering this as this is quite hard core, high on some cholesterol levels and can be rich.
BE thought Sea Ranch was pretty OK until they started to do buffet style. Some say that once a legit Japanese place starts sushi buffet, the quality of the sushi plummets. For me, this blog post is more of a sincere throw back to what Sea Ranch used to be as we have not been back in at least 2 years. But if I had to eat a Sea Ranch vs. Dozika (across the street), I’d eat at Sea Ranch hands down.