Veggie Girl: Sushi Zushi

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You know those people who are disgustingly picky about where in a restaurant they sit? Those people who, no matter where a host or hostess puts them, want to sit somewhere else, and are willing to pull the strings and smile ingratiatingly enough to get themselves moved? And who then, once comfortably seated in their table of choice, complain about the air conditioner and cajole the server into turning it down?

Horrible people. And I'm undoubtedly, incorrigibly one of them.

This was exactly what transpired at Sushi Zushi one quiet weeknight recently. The restaurant--a dark, high-ceilinged, aggressively modern affair with club music pulsating throughout--was near empty, yet the hostess seated us next to an occupied table. It wasn't just "next to," either. It was New-York-next-to: the kind of dinner where, as in many a Manhattan bistro, you can tell exactly which date (second) the two people next to you are on and whether they like spicy food (absolutely not; too bad you recommended the vindaloo!).

My righteous indignation at having to sit so close to one of three other pairs of diners got the best of me, and my companion and I weaseled our way into a quiet little spot that looked out on the bamboo-lined patio. Here's where I should've just taken what I'd been given and been happy with it, but the air conditioning was blasting down as if it meant to cryogenically preserve us. And so I was forced to complain yet again...Alas.

I'd like to say I've learned my lesson and will stay where I'm put from now on, but food writing only makes you pickier.

From there, though, things only improved. Sushi Zushi's menu is, in a word, interminable--which always bodes well for finding some obscure veg-friendly items. And find we did, starting with plain cucumber and cucumber-seaweed dishes of sumomono, a bit pickle-y but still refreshing, with a nice crunch of toasted sesame. I asked for miso soup, too, which never came, but in the end we had more than enough food, and we weren't charged for it.

The menu offers a brief selection of veggie rolls amid a multitude of sushi options, and some of them contain cream cheese. But the basic veggie roll--avocado, sprouts, carrots, cucumber and asparagus--is lovely, as is the less Americanized ume shiso roll, which pairs spicy-sweet pickled plum with minty-enigmatic shiso (perilla) leaf. The vegetable teppan yaki is luscious and filling: a giant plate of grilled mushrooms, zucchini, onions, green peppers and (somewhat scant) asparagus with a rich vegan peanut dipping sauce. Vegetarian yakisoba noodles were nice, too, if less of a platform for the vegetables themselves than for the noodles.

Service was indulgent--especially to such difficult clientele as myself--and most portions were large and reasonably priced. I'm quite sure the vegan options for true Japanese food extend beyond Sushi Zushi, extensive as its menu may be, but for now, this trendy Oak Lawn joint is a good start. Maybe next time, since I know the food will be good, I'll content myself with unnecessary closeness to other customers.

Then again, maybe not.

Sushi Zushi
3858 Oak Lawn Ave. #145

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