From sushi to hibachi, Hokkaido gets it right
With its full and flexible menu, Hokkaido Sushi, Hibachi Steak House and Lounge in Oakbrook Terrace offers unfussy Japanese dining in a contemporary setting.
More modern than old-school, clean lines dominate the decor at the local outpost of this small chain. A few Japanese prints and pretty lamps complement the natural wood and stone furnishings. The lounge is shaded but not dark and glows blue with a giant central light. When you step into the lounge, the overhead indigo hue is matched by a line of blue glass that rims the floor. Take a close look and you'll see it's an in-floor koi pond.
There are a few wall-mounted TVs in the lounge area, but they're high up so you don't have to see them if you don't want to, which is a nice change.
The sushi bar is just off the lounge and the main dining area is set off from both with hanging screens and brighter lighting. The hibachi grill and more seating is in its own room. The restaurant is quite large but not overwhelming with its bento box-style configuration.
I wanted to concentrate on the sushi this time out and, of course, it's got to be fresh, fresh, fresh. Hokkaido delivers. We started our meal with a la carte nigiri tamago, little slices of sweet omelette and octopus. To drink, I chose an Asian Pear Martini cloudy with fresh pear juice. It was refreshing with just a hint of sweetness. Our bartender spent time with us discussing drinks and steered us in the right direction. My friend chose an Asahi beer, on the beverage menu it's listed as dry -- something I'd never seen before. Dry wine, yes; dry beer, no. We figured it might make an excellent accompaniment to our meal and it did. The full bar offers several specialty cocktails, sakes and Japanese beers, and imported and domestic wines. I think I'll try the Sake Mai Tai next time.
We moved to the sushi bar to hang with the chef there. I like to ask questions while they prepare the plates. I also like to ask about what the chef thinks is the specialty of the house and what he likes to eat. I think I might be a bit of a pest, but I tip well. That said, all our servers were attentive and helpful.
We split an appetizer of soft shell crab, dipped in black sesame tempura served with its own special ponzu. Chewy, spicy, sweet, savory, a little bit salty. Delicious.
The Signature Maki menu is studded with tasty items. One in particular caught my fancy with its description: spicy tuna, cucumber with seared tuna, black tobiko, spicy mayo and eel sauce. A bit insensitively named the Kamikaze, we ordered it anyway and it was yummy. We passed on the King Kong but the Dragon -- fresh water eel on top of shrimp tempura avocado and cucumber, we liked very much.
The highlight of the meal for me was the Salmon Ceviche. Fresh salmon and thin sliced lemon over spicy shrimp and cucumber roll served with Asian salsa was more than memorable. Tangy, spicy bursts in each bite. And it was as pretty as it was delicious. I've been mentioning it to everyone and I'm going to have to go back for it.
In the hibachi grill, oil shimmered on the grill ready for seafood, chicken and beef. Made to order before your eyes, this is part dinner, part show. There is ringside seating at the grill and separate tables. The room's lighting offers less atmosphere, but you can still see all the action. This area was a big hit with the families dining on a recent Friday night.
Hibachi dinner entrees are well-priced and come with salad, vegetables, shrimp, and steamed or fried rice. Choices include teriyaki chicken, steak, hibachi shrimp, scallops and whole lobster tail. All looked and smelled delicious and worthy of a return visit.
Desserts include pineapple and mango sorbets covered in white chocolate, green tea and mochi ice creams and chocolate souffle. A shared dish of sorbets was a nice finish, but I left thinking about Salmon Ceviche.
What I sampled here is just the beginning of a full and flexible menu. Order sushi, sashimi or grilled items from the kitchen. Sit at the hibachi grill and order any number of combinations. There are Udon and soba noodle dishes, salads and soups, too.
• Restaurant reviews are based on one anonymous visit. The Daily Herald does not publish reviews of restaurants it cannot recommend.
Hokkaido Sushi, Hibachi Steak House & Lounge17W705 Roosevelt Road, Oakbrook Terrace, (630) 691-1333, hokkaidosushilounge.com
Cuisine: Sushi and cooked entrees
Entrees: $11 to $31; sushi $4 to $10
Hours: Lunch 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Friday; dinner 4:30 to 9:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 4:30 to 10:30 p.m. Friday, 3 to 10:30 p.m. Saturday, 3 to 9:30 p.m. Sunday