Sushi bar at Runa

You thought dim sum was Chinese, right? Me too. And, at least for the most part, it is—as far as I can tell after a little online research. So why is Runa Japanese, a sushi restaurant, serving dim sum? Well, it’s not exactly clear. Maybe the owners thought that opening in a space that has housed four short-lived restaurants in the past six years (Su-Ra, a second location of Lincoln Park’s Pannekoeken Cafe, Yuca Cafe, and the Lazy Parrot) meant they’d need something to set themselves apart.

Whatever the case, in addition to an extensive menu of Japanese appetizers, entrees, sashimi, and sushi—including nearly 50 varieties of maki—there’s a brief dim sum menu with classics like dumplings, steamed buns, and wontons. And it is brief: fewer than a dozen offerings, about a quarter of which consist of various types of shrimp dumplings (we got the ones listed only as “shrimp dumplings,” but I’m pretty sure they were har gow). This isn’t the type of place that has carts of dim sum touring the room; the restaurant is pretty small to start with, and there weren’t more than a half dozen other customers the Sunday afternoon we were there.

Still, the dim sum was pretty decent, and very reasonably priced: $3 per order gets you four fat dumplings (or a comparable amount of whatever else you might choose from the list). Xiao long bao, or soup dumplings, are notoriously difficult to make, but all of ours arrived intact, with the soup still inside the tender dough and a flavorful ball of pork, shrimp, and veggies in the middle. The shrimp dumplings were a little bland, but the wrappers were silky, and a quick bath in the dipping sauce more or less solved the problem. The one dish that suffered from poor cooking technique was the pork bun: most of the bun was fluffy and soft, but one side had dried out; still, the pork was well-seasoned and nicely spicy.

Nagi hamachi, spicy tuna, and eel and avocado maki at Runa
  • Julia Thiel
  • Nagi hamachi, spicy tuna, and eel and avocado maki at Runa

There are also various Japanese lunch specials, including two maki for $9 or three for $12, bento boxes, and a chef’s selection of sushi. The maki included in the special are simple ones—none of the monster specialty rolls offered on the dinner menu—but there are 20 to choose from, and they’re not bad. We had the nagi hamachi, spicy tuna, and eel and avocado, all of which had nicely seasoned rice but overly chewy nori (at least for my taste). At $4 a roll, though, you could do worse. Actually, that same principle applies to lunch at Runa in general: none of the offerings is outstanding, but you can get plenty of food for two people for about $20—and, well, you could do worse.

Runa, 2257 W. North, 773-278-8887