I'm Turning Japanese....I Really Think So!

My first tasting this month was at a restaurant I’ve heard a lot about and been wanting to visit for a long time. After all, who wouldn’t be curious about an authentic, latin-inspired, Japanese eatery featuring both tacos and sushi! Along with their PR Manager, I finally ventured to Tokio Pub to put my curiosity to rest.

The restaurant is located in a popular neighborhood in Schaumburg, sharing space with its LEYE counterpart Shaw’s Crab House. The restaurant also offers the most lively, pub-like atmosphere and was hopping even on a weekday evening, which I thought is a good testimony to its quality.

In celebration of my love for both Latin American and Japanese cuisines, it only made sense to start with the White Peach Sake Sangria with Chablis, sake, liqueurs and white peach puree. Not only was it pretty and sparkly, but also perfectly cooling for the unusually hot spell we were having that day. I highly recommend this drink!

As we got ready to order our food, it was suggested that we begin with the Ahi Tuna Hot Rock appetizer. I’m always a sucker for interactive dishes that involve some participation in preparation, but this one was especially fun. We got to sizzle tiny pieces of tuna pre-marinated with ginger and garlic on the river rock, and then dip it into a medley of house-made marinades, cucumber salad and hot mustard sauce.  The tuna was tender and so fresh that it tasted wonderful even without the condiments.

Next we got the Crying Tiger Shrimp and the Crispy Fish Taco. The tacos came with jumbo-butterflied shrimp with Sriracha chili sauce and house slaw, and fresh fish with chipotle remoulade, respectively.  Both were absolutely flavorful with the sauces fusing latin and Japanese flavors. I was also very tickled that we were having tacos at a Japanese restaurant. Very cool!

We then ordered the highly recommended Rangoon Roll, which was an entirely delicious tempura fried roll with spicy shrimp, cream cheese, scallions, chili oil and sweet and sour sauce. The ingredients in this roll simply melted in your mouth and each bite created such an amazing flavor burst. This was also one of the prettiest rolls I’ve seen. They went fast!

Since we were ordering from the maki section, we also decided to try their Crispy Rice Rolls; my favorite from the dinner. These were phenomenal; the tuna one came with sushi grade tuna, soy mirin and wasabi. The wasabi added just the right kick to augment the taste of the meat.  The shrimp roll was also an impeccable mix of spicy shrimp, tobanjan and scallion.  The dish definitely showcased Chef Naoki Nakashima’s culinary genius. An absolutely outstanding roll that marries the flavors and textures of all elements so beautifully, it won’t even matter that it’s deep-fried. And I’d love to get my hands on a bowl of just that buttery, crunchy rice that coated the maki. I’d say crispy rice rolls are my new favorite food discovery and I will be actively seeking them out at sushi restaurants now!

We were too full but we still braved a bowl of the Ramen, which was made fully pescetarian for us. One would think we would’ve been sick of shrimp by now, but once again, the dish was so utterly delectable and different from the others that we didn’t mind. The ramen came with tempura shrimp, fresh ramen with wakame, kimchi, sesame seeds, bamboo shoots, chili oil, all doused in a yummy miso broth. This dish closed out our dinner strong!

Tokio Pub was fantastic overall, and offered a creative take on two of my favorite cuisines. Bias aside, the food speaks for itself. It is innovative, delicious and affordable. Well worth the drive from the city especially if you’re looking for a delicious break from the usual food scene in Chicago. I hope you get to visit soon!

By Pooja Naik

The Chicago Pescetarian

(June 14, 2016)