In Chicago on a trip last fall, I was in another "food funk" where I was hungry for something, but I wasn't overly certain what I was hungry for. Sushi is always my default whenever I get into these "blah" moods when I'm on the road. I searched for sushi places near my hotel near O'Hare Airport and I found a place on S. Cumberland by the name of Umami Sushi.
I couldn't find much out about the place which is located in the Shops at Cumberland Court, just south of Lawrence that's part of the far western reaches of Chicago and right next to Norridge. (see map) The only thing I could find on Umami Sushi that it opened in December of 2012. But I did find out that the term "Umami" roughly means "pleasant savory taste" in Japanese.
When I pulled up to the place that evening, the parking lot was packed. As I was orbiting the parking lot for the second time thinking that I was going to bag this trip and find someplace else to eat, I found a spot when a car was pulling out of spot.
Going into the restaurant, I found the place was packed. And it they didn't have a normal sushi bar - it had just one seat. Since all the tables and booths were full I asked the hostess if I could take the one seat at the sushi bar. My server for the evening - Milica - came over to great me and to drop off a menu. I asked if I could get an Asahi beer and she said, "We don't have a liquor license. But there's a liquor store next door if you'd like to go get something and bring it back." I thought for a moment that if I got up to go get something to drink from the liquor store, I probably wouldn't come back. I just had water instead.
Looking through the menu, I soon found out why the place was packed - Umami Sushi features an "all-you-can-eat" menu for $19.99 at night ($12.99 for lunch). As I glanced around the place, it was full of 20 and 30-something diners and I realized that I was probably the oldest person in the place. I thought, "Well, hell. I'm already here. I may as well have some sushi."
I ended up getting some spicy tuna and spicy salmon rolls, as well as some tuna, salmon and red snapper sushi. The rolls had some "crunchies" added to the outer side. They were just all right - they didn't really have much a spicy taste to them.
The sushi was, well, just OK, too. I was sort of watching the 6 or 7 sushi chefs behind the counter and it was a veritable sushi assembly line. They weren't pulling the fish out of the refrigerated cases - the fish filets seemed to be lined up so they were just cutting fish and forming the sushi to get them out as fast as possible. It tasted to me like the fish was closer to room temperature than cool. And because of that, the sushi had somewhat of a fishy taste - especially the red snapper. Milica asked me if I wanted to order any more sushi, but I decided that I'd had enough. Even if I was still hungry - and I really wasn't - I wouldn't have ordered up any more sushi.
I can't say that I was too impressed with Umami Sushi. The "all-you-can-eat" concept brings in the younger crowd, but the sushi wasn't that great. It wasn't bad, but I didn't really think the overall taste of the sushi or the rolls that I had was all that it could be. These type of sushi places don't appeal to me. They're trying to get the sushi out as soon as possible and it seems to hurt the overall taste and quality. Umami Sushi probably won't be part of my rotation of sushi restaurants located near O'Hare Airport.