Shakou brings extensive Asian menu, metropolitan vibe to Arlington Heights
Downtown Arlington Heights has developed into a little metropolis of its own, so why shouldn't it have a hip sushi place? It got one when the Shakou chain opened a location on Vail Avenue in 2017.
With restaurants already in Barrington, Park Ridge, St. Charles and Libertyville (and another one coming to Naperville in spring 2019), Shakou -- under the direction of executive chef Sang Choi -- is more than a sushi place. It's a complete Asian restaurant with an exhaustive menu, beautiful presentations and a cool vibe.
Shakou says it serves modern Asian cuisine. While sushi and seafood dominate the menu, you'll find a wide range of appetizers and entrees that include steak and chicken, vegetables and rice, and even raw oysters. And there's a complete cocktail menu, too.
You can sit directly in front of the sushi chefs to watch them prepare your order, but Shakou also has a lounge feel, with seating both at high and low tables with high chairs or comfy lounge chairs. The modern interior design of white with black trim and blue back lighting, as well as up-tempo but calming music, give you the feel of an upscale city hotel.
You'll want to start with at least a couple of appetizers. In fact, you could make a good meal out of the small plates on the appetizer menu. The Seven Spicy Ahi was recommended to us by the server, and she was right: It is surprisingly good. It's butter-toasted sushi rice topped with spicy tuna, jalapeño peppers, citrus mayo and tobiko (flying fish roe). The spice and peppers are not overwhelming at all and really quite tasty.
You'll otherwise find safe appetizer options or more daring ones. You can get salted edamame, as well as gyoza (Japanese dumplings) and shrimp tempura, but you can also get a lamb plate, orange duck, bacon-wrapped scallops, crabcakes and stuffed jalapeños. It was nice to see the asparagus beef roll -- literally pieces of asparagus inside rolled-up beef dipped in teriyaki sauce -- because not all Japanese restaurants have it. It's quite delightful when you can get it.
There's also a range of miso soups and salads, and fresh oysters by the half dozen or dozen. Skip the dull shrimp spring roll.
You'll find the servers to be impressive with their manners and knowledge of the menu. And you'll find the appetizers and sushi presented beautifully on modern Asian plates, decorated artistically with the colored sauces.
Ready for a main dish? The "signature maki" menu is where you'll find the best sushi collections, eight to 10 pieces per plate. The namesake Shakou plate is lightly battered spicy tuna, shrimp, avocado and asparagus. Other plates feature New York strip steak, shrimp tempura, fried soft-shell crab, spicy tuna, smoked salmon, lobster tempura and lightly battered Asian sweet potato.
The Dragon Fire is a dragon-roll plate with a kick. It has the typical crab, cucumber and avocado but adds spicy tuna, spicy tako (octopus) and citrus mayo, plus habanero sauce to join the unagi sauce. Keep your water glass near.
The Black Widow is a unique plate: black rice surrounding lightly battered eel (don't be afraid of delicious eel) and avocado with a tempura crunch and sautéed scallops. Terrific.
If you're bringing a companion who's leery of sushi, no worries. You can order chicken and salmon teriyaki, Chilean sea bass, lobster and filet, steak and shrimp, short ribs, fish and chips, even a Berkshire pork chop. Some 20 dinner and noodle options in all. And you can get sides of vegetables and rice, including fried rice.
The not terribly exotic dessert menu includes standards like chocolate mousse, lava cake and truffle.
With all these options, it's easy to drop $40 or $50 per person at Shakou. But you can also get a single entree for $20. There's also a small lunch menu with a few seafood sandwiches for $12 or less, or bento boxes for $15 or less.
The new Shakou is in downtown Arlington Heights, so you'll have parking at your disposal. At lunchtime on a weekday, you have a good shot at finding street parking nearby. On weekday and especially weekend nights, Shakou offers valet or you may need to walk from a village lot or garage.
Shakou might not be the absolute best Asian food you'll find, but you won't be disappointed, and certainly the ambience, service and presentation make for a pleasant outing.
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70 N. Vail Ave., Arlington Heights, (847) 749-3915, shakourestaurants.com
Cuisine: Modern Asian
Setting: Upscale vibe
Entrees: $15-$25 for signature maki; $17-$41 otherwise
Hours: 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday, noon to 11 p.m. Saturday, 4 to 9 p.m. Sunday
• Restaurant reviews are based on one anonymous visit. The Daily Herald does not publish reviews of restaurants it cannot recommend.