CHICAGO - Sushi bars are nothing new in Chicago, but Anaba in Wicker Park offers something different.
It shares an address with the veggie-friendly Mana Food Bar at 1742 W. Division St., and like its sibling, it's laser-focused on just one thing: handrolls.
"Handroll is a piece of nori - seaweed - with warm rice and fresh fish," said Chef Soon Park.
As in any sushi restaurant, rice is crucial here. After it's cooked, it's transferred to a large, wooden bowl, seasoned with sugar, sake, and mirin, a Japanese rice vinegar.
The chef must work quickly, aerating the rice while it cools to ensure all of the rice is seasoned equally.
Then there's the fish. Anaba works with tuna, salmon, yellowtail and blue crab, and adds tiny orange fish eggs called tobiko or sauces such as mayo, spicy sriracha, soy sauce or nutty sesame oil.
All of this is combined so well that the finished product requires very little extra soy sauce.
Imported nori sheets are kept warm until an order comes in.
Then, a small handful of rice is placed on one end. Seasoned fish or sauce is added, and Park rolls it up. He then immediately places it in front of the guest.
"If you don't eat it right away, it'll be really chewy. So we recommend people to eat it within 10 or 20 seconds," said Park.
The rolls are all the same size, enough for about three to four bites.
Park says even if you order more than one, he won't make the next until you finish the one you currently have.
"Crispiness of the nori on the first bite you can't really experience that at any other Japanese restaurant," he said. "That's why we serve just one by one. We're not gonna make until you finish your whole piece of handroll."
In Steve's Extra Course Video today, he takes a closer look at a very unique Japanese-style Old Fashioned they serve at the tiny bar, made with a rare Japanese whisky.
Extra Course: Japanese-style Old-Fashioned