It was a tough job, but somebody had to do it.
Patch just had to know who offers the tastiest sushi in our three-town conference—Tinley Park, Oak Forest and Orland Park—and I volunteered to "take one for the team."
As I sat staring down six rolls of sushi all to myself, I came up with a checklist with which to evaluate the mouth-watering maki in front of me. We decided we'd go with one staple and one specialty roll from each place. Spicy tuna seemed a popular choice for myself and Orland Park Patch Editor Ben Feldheim, so that was a must. The second roll, I left up to the suggestion of each restaurant's staff.
As for the checklist, I went with the first things that pop into my head after I pop in a piece of sushi: freshness, flavor, and presentation. In the presentation category, I looked more at overall appearance of the roll. Did it look appetizing? How colorfully was it prepared? In my opinion, if it's done right, sushi should be as much a feast for the eye as it is for the stomach. However, since I did take all my orders to go, I attached a little less weight to this category than the others.
HAMADA OF JAPAN — 18310 N. Creek Dr., Tinley Park
Spicy Tuna: I was starving when I dug into the first spicy tuna roll. The six-piece roll was heaped with bright, pink tuna tinted with the orange spicy mayo. Each piece was neatly rolled and stayed together as I picked it up with my chopsticks. The seaweed wrapped around the perfectly cooked rice was the ideal texture, and bits of cucumber were a special treat. I had to hold myself back from eating the whole roll, to leave room for the rest.
Red Dragon: This specialty roll was similar to the spicy tuna (which the staff recommended). The spicy tuna inside was complimented nicely by the crunch of fresh cucumber and avocado, with fresh tuna draped over the roll. My biggest complaint was the flavor—didn't pack quite as big of a flavor punch as I'd hoped. But if you're a spicy tuna fan, you can't go wrong with a Red Dragon. Again the seaweed and rice were the perfect texture: soft, but not too chewy for the seaweed, and moist but not clumpy for the rice.
Thumbs Up: Great helpings, fresh ingredients, beautifully prepared.
Thumbs Down: Spicy mayo not quite as spicy as I usually like, but that's a matter of preference.
ICHIRO, 15866 S. LaGrange Rd., Orland Park
Spicy Tuna: At first glance, the spicy tuna roll appeared similar to Hamada's—and that had my stomach growling. But a few pieces in, I noted the biggest difference between the two: the seaweed. Ichiro's seemed mushier than Hamada's, which made it a bit tough to chew. The tuna seemed a little less fresh, as well, and wasn't the lovely bright pink of Hamada's.
Superman: I mentioned I enjoyed crabmeat, and the server quickly recommended this specialty. The roll was brightly speckled with fresh fish eggs spread over pieces packed with shrimp tempura and crabmeat, and topped with white tuna. The combination was packed with flavor and textures. After a bite into the tender tuna, I enjoyed the crunch of the tempura and the sweet flavor of the sauce. Also colorful and beautifully done.
Thumbs Up: Flavorful, colorful—as much fun to look at as it was to eat.
Thumbs Down: Ingredients seemed a little less fresh than Hamada’s. Seaweed was a bit chewier than I'd like.
SAKEBOB BBQ, 6210 159th St., Oak Forest
Spicy Tuna: Sakebob takes a different approach to spicy tuna. Rather than wrap the rice and tuna in seaweed, the chef rolls up a layer of rice into the seaweed, with a dollop of spicy tuna in the center. Compared to the first two, this spicy tuna roll is both noticeably smaller and skimpy on the tuna. With less tuna and less spicy mayo, the flavor just wasn't there. The rice overpowered the "spicy," and the tuna. I, personally, enjoy the flavor of the seaweed, and it seemed a little buried in the rice.
Rainbow Roll: A rainbow roll is essentially a California roll with sashimi and avocado wrapped around it. Think crabmeat, avocado and cucumber rolled in rice, with avocado and sashimi draped over the whole roll, drizzled in a white sauce. I definitely preferred this to their spicy tuna. The flavor was outstanding. But as a whole, the roll seemed petite compared to the other two restaurant's offerings.
Thumbs Up: Really enjoyed the Rainbow Roll. Great flavor, good-looking roll.
Thumbs Down: Rolls seem a little on the slim side, compared to competitors'. Ingredients seemed a little less fresh.
AND THE WINNER IS....
Hamada—hands down. The size of the rolls, the flavor, the bright, beautiful fresh ingredients make this one tops in my book. My family and I have gone for the hibachi meals before, but I'm going to go back more often for their sushi. Might even skip the hibachi altogether, for a seat at the sushi bar. And in case you were wondering, there is such a thing as too much sushi.