I'm like a middle-school-age boy with a one-track mind, except in my case, I'm hot for a stretch of Sheridan Road. It's official: I've become a Buena Park believer. Ever since revisiting the blocks near the Sheridan L stop, which I remembered for little more than their eck-factor, I've been completely smitten with the fact that six BYOBs, with more coming, sit just steps from the train.
After having great meals at Pizza Rustica and TAC Quick, and officially squashing my snooty attitude toward Sheridan "L" Liquors, I was back in the neighborhood with Merle in tow. Up next was Katachi, a Japanese restaurant best known for its all-you-can-eat sushi special, which drops from $24.95 to $19.95 on days when the Cubs play at home and gets raves because it includes everything—even $14.95 specialty rolls.
But Merle and I were going to have to ante up every penny for what we ate: The special only runs from 5-7 p.m. daily, and we had plans to meet at 8 p.m. We took a quick walk to the now-familiar liquor store for a bottle of wine. While the selection of chilled Chardonnay is impressively large, it only had a few bottles of Sauvignon Blanc, my go-to sushi white, to choose from. Most cost $10+, so we went with an $11.99 bottle of Francis Ford Coppola Diamond Sauvignon Blanc, an old standby.
The restaurant was totally empty, but a handful of diners sat out front, and we grabbed an outdoor two-top in kind. We were immediately asked if our paper-bagged bottle was red or white (a nice touch) and given all the necessary accoutrements.
We weren't ready to order, so we asked for a minute...then another...then another. The patient waitstaff didn't mind our lazy pace as we sipped wine and considered the menu. We decided to forgo appetizers (save the requisite bowl of miso soup for me) and focus our energy on the rolls. The offerings, like most, are divided into basic and special maki; basics cost $4.95-$7.95 and the specials top out at $14.95.
We started with some of each: a super-basic tekka (tuna) maki; my forever-favorite Mexican maki, with hamachi, cilantro, jalapeno, avocado and spicy sauce; the Samurai maki, with super white tuna, avocado, cucumber, scallion, jalapeno and spicy mayo; and the Cubs maki (when in Rome...), with deep-fried bell pepper, shrimp tempura, avocado and spicy sauce.
The staff brought out the rolls at lightning speed, the benefits, I suppose, of being one of a few diners. The tekka maki was quite teeny; the other rolls were presented with a dose of fanfare, with three or four thin-sliced pieces next to cucumber matchsticks and tempura bits flaring out of the end pieces.
Spice is my thing, so I was all over the Mexican and Samurai maki, which packed enough heat to cause Merle to do a red-faced gulp after the first bite. I thought the fried bell pepper was interesting, but the sushi purist in me leaves me less inclined to try fried-to-the-max options, so Merle handled the Cubs maki and gave it a positive report.
The wine, which I've been long-familiar with, got a positive report, too. The crispness let the maki's heat stand out (and did little to quench the fire in Merle's mouth). Coppola ages its Sauvignon Blanc entirely in stainless steel, which it claims preserves its varietal character, in this case, a palate of pear and honeydew. Does summer get any better?
The pace of our wine drinking and munching was pleasant, the sushi was decent and our stomachs were just shy of empty. We hadn't eaten any salmon yet, so we put in a final order for Manhattan maki, with cucumber, lettuce and avocado.
It came out quickly, and I gave it a closer look than I had the others, partially because my hunger had subsided enough to allow me to proceed at a civilized pace. Then I gave it a closer...and closer...look: The teeny kidney-bean-size piece of salmon in each roll was dwarfed by a whopping double layer of rice. Not cool. Fueled by the wine, I sent it back, and was pleasantly returned a more appropriate salmon serving.
Katachi gets top marks for error fixing, but, like the baseball team fighting for glory just a few blocks south, those errors don't easily disappear from the stats—or from Zinny's memory. Tack on the $50 bill—for five rolls, one miso and $4 in corkage fees—and I think I'll travel elsewhere for my tekka.
Zinny Fandel's tales of living the (mostly) BYOB life are intended to be attempted at home and in the community, preferably at BYOB restaurants. If you know of a BYOB spot she simply must tipple at, let her know.