Dallas was in New Hampshire for Ross and Chelsea’s wedding last weekend, which also happened to be my birthday weekend, so we decided to go out for a birthday dinner this weekend. We had reservations at both Arami and Kai Zan, both Japanese restaurants, both in the same area of Chicago, both very good. Well, at least from what we’d heard. We’d been to Arami a couple years ago and loved it and we keep hearing how great Kai Zan is, but never have been there, even though Naoko knows the owners! I scoured over the menus and in the end decided on Arami, just because they seemed to have a bigger cooked selection. Kai Zan is still on the top of our list to try, but I think we will wait until after the baby is born when we can both fully enjoy the sushi and sashimi and maybe get the omakase menu.
Arami was a good choice. We really liked everything we had. We started with a Spicy Tako Spring Roll (spicy octopus, cilantro, crisp mixed greens in rice paper), Togarashi Seared Tuna (seaweed salad, kelp noodle, daikon, citrus dressing) and some Brussels Sprouts (squab sausage, pine nuts, pickled banana pepper, yuzu brown butter). Funny thing: Dallas is finally coming around on brussels sprouts. He has hated them for years, but he liked them at Arami and the last time we ordered them at Wasabi.
Next Dallas had some sashimi – the Kona kampachi (from Hawaii), some Japanese kampachi and some saba. I opted for a couple of things from the robata grill – Some corn with miso butter and togarashi mayo that reminded me of elotes and a super sweet ebi yaki with saikyo miso butter and maitake. Finally for our entrees, we each got ramen. Dallas had the Kimchi Ramen (pork belly, kimchi, tofu, nira, egg) the last time we were at Arami and he got it again. I never had the ramen from Arami, so I decided to give it a shot and got the Arami Ramen (pork belly, braised beef, house tsukemono, kamaboko, enoki, egg). It was SO GOOD. Not as huge of a serving as some places, which was actually good because we were sampling a lot, but SOOOO flavorful. And I love that they added the soft boiled egg, like almost every place in Japan does. I haven’t seen many places in Chicago add the egg and it’s one of my favorite parts. I also loved that they added the contrasting house-made tsukemono (pickle).
By now I was pretty stuffed, but it was my birthday celebration, so I had to take a look at the dessert menu. I decided to give the Peach Ice Cream (with togarashi popcorn and miso-honey caramel) a shot. Delicious. The peach flavor was very subtle and so was the togarashi spice. The popcorn was almost more like a kettle corn flavor, but salty enough to give you that salty sweet flavor contrast that I love.
So, really great birthday dinner and worth the week wait to enjoy it with Dallas !!! We were talking a bit about how much ramen this baby has “eaten” over the course of the last 34 and a half weeks… the answer is: A LOT. Between our trip to Japan and seeking out great ramen in Chicago after the trip, I have eaten more ramen this year than I probably have in my whole life! Either that means baby will love ramen or hate it, I’m not sure!
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