• Rick Day

Nearly 30 Years After Opening, Sushi Kushi Remains a Favorite

By Rick Day For many, the best way to get an authentic Japanese meal would be to go west – way west – via multiple long plane rides to get to the island nation of Japan. In Lake Forest, however, we only have to go as far west as Waukegan Road.

Nestled in Sunset Corners Shopping Center, alongside a hardware store and nail salon, sits Sushi Kushi Toyo. Open since 1993, Sushi Kushi has been delivering some of the best sushi, kushi, and other Japanese delicacies on the North Shore for almost 30 years.

Makimono is delivered with flair at Sushi Kushi.

Lunch is a great time to experience Sushi Kushi. In addition to the full menu, it offers lunch specials of bento boxes, katsu, and teriyaki, among others. Each of these offer a quick, hot, and filling option.

The appetizers at Sushi Kushi are not to be missed. Each of these starters offers a unique taste of Japanese cuisine in a small and tasty package. Personal favorites include the asparagus beef, edamame, and shumai, and what I opted for during my visit, the gyoza. These pan-fried chicken potstickers offer a complete sensory experience in each delicious dumpling. The pan frying leads to a wonderfully crispy bottom, and the addition of steam in the cooking process leads to the top offering a pillowy softness that complements the crunchiness so well. That first bite gives way to an umami-filled experience of chicken, herbs, and spices, that makes you want to go back for more. In fact, five to a serving leaves me always wanting more, but I must remind myself that there is more to this menu than just appetizers.

My fellow diners ordered sushi – more specifically makimono – something you can’t go wrong with (seeing as it’s in the name!). The bodega crunch roll showcased the food in an artistic way that only the best sushi chefs are able to. The richness of the crab and the avocado -- contrasted by the spicy mayo and complemented by the crunch and a slight bite from the scallions -- looked like something I would gladly order another time.

I highly recommend the kurobuta katsudon – a dish that I keep reordering when dining at Sushi Kushi. A wonderfully rich cutlet of black Berkshire pork, breaded in panko and deep fried, then served over rice with sauteed onions, a savory, umami-laden broth, and runny fried eggs. All of the components play their own critical role into creating a wonderful bowl of comfort food. Coming hot fresh out of the kitchen, the pork has a satisfying crunch, and the richness of the meat is cut by the salt and hint of tartness in the broth. The broth, onion, and egg combine to make a sort of sauce that coats the rice and many delicious bites to complement the pork. The bowl provides an excellent portion size without being overwhelming, ensuring that you are full upon your departure. The biggest problem with this dish is the desire for a nap following lunchtime.

While some Lake Forest restaurants have come and gone over the years, Sushi Kushi has remained a constant – and for good reason. The food stands out and is produced at a consistently high level. The fish is fresh, food is well presented, and most importantly, everything tastes great. Whether you need a nice spot for dinner, or a break during lunch, Sushi Kushi is always a great option.