The undeniably chic Sen Sushi is serving up an exciting variety of sashimi and makimono in Oak Park. Beyond its endless parade of eclectic sushi, Sen offers an innovative take on high-end Japanese cuisine. The pristine fish and impeccable service lures loads of foodies, making it nearly impossible to find a seat on a Saturday night without calling ahead. What’s my recommendation? Explore the local shops until your table is ready—it is well worth the wait.
The 30-seat sushi bar is nestled in the Oak Park neighborhood of Southtown. Oak Parker Chaidanai Chaiprasert owns the restaurant and runs it with his wife, Varanya. He’s no stranger to the Oak Park dining scene, as he partnered with his mother 10 years ago to open Mama Thai on Madison Street. Sen opened in July of 2009 and residents in and around Oak Park have been in love since.
The intimate, wood-paneled space is minimally decorated within the gray-stoned exterior. The modern aesthetics pair nicely with the brilliant simplicity of the sushi bar’s menu.
This evening, I started with a drink from the restaurant’s list of signature martinis, appropriately named Sen-tinis. They’re all delicious, each with the perfect blend of flavors and libations, but my personal favorites are the Mango-tini and Lychee-tini. We continued the flow of soothing liquids by partaking in a bowl of miso soup enhanced with wakame (a sweet sea vegetable), soft tofu, and scallions. The thick and umami-rich soup connects well with nearly any menu item you move on to next.
Next was the moment we had been waiting for, the sushi part of the meal.
Our table of two shared three makimono rolls, beginning with my all-time favorite, the Sweet Potato Maki. The vegetarian-friendly roll is filled with sweet potato tempura, avocado, kampyo, and scallions, then topped with wasabi mayo and kabayaki sauce. This combination creates the perfect balance of sweet and savory and because the main event is sweet potato, your hunger is satisfied pretty quickly.
We then transitioned to the dreamy Summer Maki. This freshly delightful roll layers hamachi, crab meat, cilantro and cucumber. The chef finishes the roll with wasabi mayo, lime juice, tempura crunch, and a spicy chili sauce. For the sake of this review, tonight was my first time experiencing the Summer Maki. The flavors made me think of sitting oceanside with a strawberry mojito. The Summer Maki will definitely be a regular option for when the weather warms up…or if I need to daydream of the weather that has yet to come.
We finished our makimono selection with the grandiose Caterpillar Maki. This contemporary option features eel, cucumber, avocado, and if that isn’t enough for you, fried calamari. Three sauces of kabayaki, wasabi mayo, and wasabi tobiko complete the tightly packed roll. There is no fancy way of saying that this roll is huge, so you should not be surprised that there is also no fancy way to eat this roll! There is so much going on and in every bite, you taste a different dimension of the maki.
To end our evening at Sen, we shared an order of the Green Tea Creme Brûlée. I will admit that their creme brûlée is the only dessert item I have tried. I’m typically stuffed at this point, but in the event that there is room for a sweet treat, the flavors of the Green Tea Crème Brûlée peacefully linger on your palate.
To experience the lovely Sen Sushi, visit them at 814 South Oak Park Avenue. They’re open Tuesday – Saturday from 11 am – 10 pm, Sunday from 12 pm – 9:30 pm.
By Morgan Davis
Photos from sensushibar.com