My default BYOB mode is a pretty predictable one: sushi and Sauvignon Blanc. So when I decided to get my spicy scallop fill at Boystown's Ecce Cafe, 3422 N. Broadway St., I was determined to do it with a different glass in hand.
But first, a pit stop along the way. I love BYOBing north of Belmont for one reason: Kafka Wine Co. Located at 3325 N. Halsted St., the shop is like heaven for winos on a budget. With more than 250 wines priced below $15, there's basically an endless supply of affordable bottles to partake in. I figured if anywhere could help me test the SB-free waters, it was Kafka.
I was determined, but still sheepish, when I asked if the salesman knew what red would pair well with sushi. He gave me a bit of a laugh and told me to pick anything I wanted. And he was right—a Cabernet isn't going to bring out the delicacies of unagi, so I might as well clash and enjoy it. But, as I hoped, he wasn't quick to abandon me, and recommended a chilled bottle of Sushiwine, which he assured me had been flying off the shelves because of its slightly salty edge, which pairs well with sushi.
Now buying a bottle called "Sushiwine" is kind of like buying clothing from the "You'll Look Hot In This" label. In other words, a little too obvious for me. But I was desperate, so I plopped down my $15 and walked just east to Ecce, where I met Steamer and gave him the rundown on the bottle, a French wine derived from Chenin Blanc grapes.
Ecce Cafe is a comfortable neighborhood spot, well-loved for its well-known BYOB policy. And it knows the drill, topping many other BYOBs in its instant proffering of an ice bucket to chill your white in. It also seems to be run by a bunch of 20-somethings (down to the sushi chefs), which adds a hip and chill edge to things (and, admittedly, slows service a bit on occasion).
Though the menu has plenty of sesame-chicken-like dishes, we took the reasonably priced sushi route, ordering the always delish Mexican maki, drooling over the sweet potato maki (fish free, yes, but with cream cheese and tempura crunches, it's some of the best stuff I've ever tasted) and loading up on spicy tuna handrolls and nigiri.
And then the wine. It certainly did pair OK with the odd mixture of wabasi, soy sauce and raw fish. But it was so well suited for that that it missed the boat on the other side of drinking: the food-less sips. As we waited for our food we gave it a whirl, and, in my descriptive best, I can only say that it's kind of clunky, like a heavy Chardonnay without the finish. Steamer and I plowed our way through, the wine champs that we are, but I'd say that if you're going to do with kitsch, go for it with a big group who can blast through a different bottle or two as well. But go ahead and do it at Ecce. Just be sure to load up on that sweet potato maki.