Lincolnshire's Starfish a true sushi gem
Don't let the strip mall exterior fool you -- Starfish in Lincolnshire is a gem among sushi spots in the suburbs. The inside is organic, full of exposed brick and birch branches, with soft blue ambient lighting along the sushi bar. Starfish serves mostly sushi with a few items from the grill and some rice and noodle dishes. A full bar menu of wine, beer and sake complement the food. This will quickly become any local sushi fan's favorite place, both for ambience and food quality.
We started our meal with the stuffed mushrooms, asparagus beef roll, shooter flight and panko scallops. The mushrooms, stuffed with snow crab, panko-crusted and served with spicy wasabi mayo, were large and fresh with a good balance of mild crab. Beware though -- that wasabi mayo really is spicy. The pan-fried steak on the asparagus beef rolls was a little tough, but the tempura asparagus made up for it; it was nice to have a little crunch in this usually commonplace appetizer.
The shooter flight was a three-part appetizer of oyster, sea urchin and salmon roe, all topped with a quail egg, Tabasco, pico de gallo and ponzu sauce. On all except the oyster shot, the flavor balance was a little off with too much Tabasco and sauce; the urchin and roe got lost in the mix.
My dining partners and I were impressed with the panko-crusted scallops; they were quite fresh (like every other ingredient at the restaurant) and mild, served with a tomato-basil sauce. Each scallop seemed like a little bundle of frutti di mare pasta, mixing Japanese and Italian cuisine adeptly.
Every entree at Starfish is a work of art, built with creativity and an eye for the best qualities of each food presented. And the portions are big. We ordered the teriyaki chicken, nabe yaki udon, combo fried rice, chirashi, and a selection of rolls and nigiri sushi. The negatives first: a little more spice would have pumped up the fried rice, and the nabe yaki udon (thick noodles in a kombu kelp broth with chicken, shrimp, scallops, bok choy, mushrooms and egg) tasted overwhelmingly like sweet potato and had hardly any meat in it.
Everything else was perfect. The teriyaki chicken was juicy, lightly seasoned and served over a bed of crisp vegetables, with the sauce on the side instead of drowning the food. The chirashi stole the show: 15 huge pieces of incredibly fresh sashimi and egg served over sticky rice. None of the fish was stringy or chewy; it was all cut perfectly to avoid that common pitfall.
For our nigiri, we ordered super white tuna, red snapper and sea urchin -- all were, again, very fresh and tender. Our rolls were the standard eel roll (eel and cucumber), the rainbow dragon (tuna, super white tuna and salmon over spicy tuna tempura, cream cheese, cucumber, avocado, crab, citrus tobiko and citrus mayo), the California sunset (salmon over snow crab, cucumber and avocado), the black dragon (eel over spicy scallops with avocado and cucumber), the blue Alaskan (snow crab over king crab) and the King Kong (crab, cream cheese, spicy tuna, shrimp tempura and avocado, deep fried and covered with eel sauce and spicy mayo). All the rolls were large with big portions of fish; my only critique is that the eel rolls could have more eel sauce -- it was practically nonexistent.
By the end of the meal, we were all thoroughly stuffed, but we managed to make some room for our desserts: the bomba, chocolate soufflé and chocolate tartufo. All of them were far bigger than the menu pictures look, so make sure you've got room if you order one. The chocolate soufflé was the table favorite, rich and smooth yet still moist. The bomba had a hard chocolate shell over a ball of vanilla and chocolate gelato, separated into layers by a cherry and cinnamon almonds. And the chocolate tartufo was also a ball, with a zabaione cream center surrounded by chocolate gelato and caramelized hazelnuts and covered in cocoa powder. Completely delicious and a perfect ending to the meal.
• Restaurant reviews are based on one anonymous visit. The Daily Herald does not publish reviews of restaurants it cannot recommend.
Starfish Sushi185 Milwaukee Ave., Suite 150, Lincolnshire, (847) 383-5511, www.starfishsushi.us
Setting: Modern lounge
Hours: 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. and 5 to 9:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday; 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. and 5 to 10:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday; 5 to 9 p.m. Sunday