Arami showcases the art of Asian fare

March 25, 2011 8:50:03 PM PDT
Japanese cuisine is known for its meticulous presentation and pristine ingredients.

Yet sushi is now so widespread, you can find it in grocery stores.

ABC7's Hungry Hound says there's one new restaurant in West Town hoping to maintain Japanese tradition, but doing so in a casual environment.

To truly determine a sushi restaurant's quality, pay close attention to the man behind the counter. At West Town's relatively new Arami, along a desolate stretch of Chicago Avenue, B.K. Park runs the show like a conductor manipulating a symphony orchestra.

"We get deliveries from Japan everyday; it's prepared extremely carefully, and B.K. San of course -- our lead partner -- knows fish backwards and forwards," said co-owner Troy Fujimura.

The signs are subtle, but significant: his deft knife skills, slicing sashimi and then presenting it in elaborate Japanese tableaus. His rice -- nearly as important as the fish -- cooked and seasoned perfectly, pressed into fish to make nigiri pieces, the grains connected but not chewy.

Then there's the creative maki; with few exceptions that cater to the cream cheese-and-mayo crowd, his rolls are stuffed and topped with fresh, elegant slices of fish, such as salmon and scallions, drizzled with a bit of lemon mayo.

"What we do is we find creative people like B.K., we give them the resources he needs, and give him the room to be creative," Fujimura said. "It's a feast for the eyes as well as all of the senses." There's a lot more than just raw fish at Arami. Kaizoku nabe features a wealth of seafood and enoki mushrooms, swimming in a rich broth, jammed into a clay pot with noodles.

Shortribs, meanwhile, are cooked low and slow, served over rice with extra braising liquid. Topped with Fresno chiles and pickled Asian pears, they represent the last vestiges of cool-weather cooking.

"Very slow-cooked, very succulent, fall off the bone," Fujimura said.

Obviously sushi fans will appreciate the pristine fish, the beautiful presentation and delicate sakes, but even if you don't like sushi, there are plenty of other things to try here, like this shortrib donburi -- a little heartier -- with a Japanese beer, so plenty of other flavors if you want to start exploring Japanese cuisine.

1829 W. Chicago Ave.
Now serves lunch: Tues - Sat., 11:30 a.m. - 2 p.m.