posted by chicago pop
The restaurant begins with an enormous geographical advantage: it's not on 55th Street, and therefore runs no risk of guilt-by-association with any of the bottom-feeder operations between Lake Park and Hyde Park Boulevards.
But it's a bit off the beaten path for some; Third World Cafe across the street, a minor hub of caffeinated intellectual activity during waking hours, is usually by then dark and in hibernation.
A few blocks east is a bleak gas station and a vacant lot Christmas tree vendor who happened to have sold a tree to Obama that afternoon, according to HuffPo Chicago and a stylist at Japanese Spa Zen; and directly across from Sit Down is the stretch of unexplainable blackness that is Nichols Park's truly uninviting 53rd Street facade.
So if this place can pull people in on a Sunday night in mid-December, they may just be able to make the long haul. We'll be back to help them out.
The four of us were roundly satisfied with our meals, which sampled only the Japanese side of the eclectic menu. Not mind-blowing as at some of the higher-end spots on the North Side, but better than many run-of-the-mill sushi places on Clark Street in Lakeview. Overall, our experience of The Sit down was of decent and solid food, in a welcoming and pleasant decor that is still novel for most Hyde Park eateries.
Dining Partner #1 summed it up nicely: "They've got the block and tackle down." The service was friendly, competent, and attentive, the sushi chefs greeted us as soon as we walked in the door, and we were checked on twice by someone who must have been owner Salvatore Pappalito.
The sushi, according to Dining Parnter #2, a veteran of some time in Japan, was "fresh, tasty, well-prepared," and he recommends the seared Tuna Tataki.
Speaking on behalf of Dining Partner #4, myself, I began with a bowl of miso soup, one of the primary comfort foods of all humanity, and it hit the spot. I followed this with a few maki, specifically the wonderfully named Smoky Bear, and an ebi tempura roll. Both were quite savory, with the Smoky Bear coming as close as a roll can to fish candy. Depending on the restaurant, an extravagant roll like this can drown out sour or unfresh fish, with the cream cheese filling and sweet unagi sauce hiding any untoward fishiness.
But the yellow tail and mackerel sushi held their own beside the rolls, assuring us that there was no sushi sleight of hand going on behind the counter. A bowl of complimentary pickled octopus was a nice touch.
I admit that when I first learned that The Sit Down would be serving sushi together with pizza and hummus, I was a bit fearful that this might be a sort of culinary hedge-fund -- and we all know how those are doing these days. They tend to go under the banner of "American Restaurant," or "European Dining," serving everything from gyros and Persian kabobs to Italian pizza, spaghetti, and American steaks while being good at cooking none of them.
None of us strayed from the waters of Japan this time, but word of mouth so far supports Dining Parnter #3's claim that the Italian-style, thin crust pizza is "super thin and super delicious!"
We'll have more on that and the sandwiches in Part 2.
1312 E. 53rd Street Chicago
Steamed White Rice
Smoky Bear Roll
Ebi Tempura Roll
Spicy Crab Roll