I don’t know about you, but I can’t count the times I’ve been working through a Kewpie-drenched spider roll when I’m interrupted by a hankering for fine French charcuterie—because it’s never happened before. And yet there I was at Ravenswood’s newish Nami Sushi Bar, standing at the edge of the abyss wondering if the sky would implode if I augmented my negi hama and salmon skin maki with an order of duck rillette with dijon, frisee, dried cherries, cornichons, and. . . yuzu gelee and shrimp chips.
That’s not the only oddball on the menu here, where the sort of garish, overdressed sushi I’m always railing against is augmented by a grab bag of seemingly wrongheaded fusion dishes. Filipino poutine, cheese fries smothered in pork belly, calamansi mayo, cheddar, and a fried egg, makes an appearance. There’s macaroni “gratin” with bacon, mushrooms, shrimp, and chicken; tempura shrimp and grits; and hanger steak bulgogi. There are two different restaurants operating here it seems: one determined to bury mediocre fish in mucky swamps of sweet, creamy sauce and one hinting at an imaginative facility for turning bad ideas into tasty eats.
The mutants I tried from the latter section of the menu were pretty good: way better than the fish, which was flaccid and unremarkable on the unadorned rolls I ate, and in the overdressed ones, just served to carry the weight of all that goop. There was a roasted shishito and cauliflower salad with bright peppery lemon seasoning. Chewy skewered bacon-wrapped rice cakes made perfect sense dredged through rustic whole grain mustard. And the rillette? Sure it was a little overcomplicated, but I think there could be a future in fatty duck confit and shrimp chips. But start drizzling it with Kewpie and I’m outta there.
Nami Sushi Bar, 1828 W. Montrose, 872-241-4407, namicuisine.com.