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January 27, 2006

Get a Life - January 27, 2006

I am sushi-challenged. Up until recently, I didn’t know the difference between sushi and sashimi, between maki and te-maki, and I certainly didn’t know how to eat edamame. My first time at Oysy (pronounced Oh-EE-she), much to the mortification of my dining companion Nora, I confided to our waitress my utter ignorance of all things sushi. This woman—a hip, gorgeous, 20-something Asian woman dressed in all black—did not laugh or scowl, but instead explained with patience all I needed to know. In case you are as unknowledgeable as I was: Sushi is a roll whereas sashimi is just a slab of raw fish (sometimes on a bed of rice). Maki and te-maki are different kinds of sushi: The former is what we’re most used to seeing, a roll cut up into pieces; the latter is a large funnel-shaped roll you just pick up and take bites out of. To clarify this last difference, our waitress drew me pictures. She drew me pictures! I love this woman. To be honest, I have girl-crushes on all the women who work at Oysy.

One of my favorite things about Oysy, besides the lovely ladies, is the décor. It’s very modern: long metal sushi bars, funky lantern lamps, a flat-screen TV mounted in the back, green lights, weird plants. But unlike most modern places, which seem a little sterile, Oysy is quite warm. People laugh, smile, and talk loudly. You don’t feel like a total miscreant if you, oh, I don’t know, try to take a bite out of the sushi because it’s too big to put the whole thing in your mouth and you can’t rip the seaweed with your teeth so all the contents of the roll spill on your lap and there you are, left with a string of seaweed hanging out of your mouth and rice and soy sauce all over your face. What? Sorry. Moving on

On another visit to Oysy, with my friends Bridget and Reynold, we had a different waitress. This woman—who was also a hip, gorgeous, 20-something Asian woman dressed in all black—took our order promptly and brought us some delicious green tea. Reynold was skeptical.

“They handle the easy customers well,” he said, “but I bet they crack under pressure.”

“What?” Bridget demanded, cementing her role in their abusive friendship. “What the hell are you talking about, Reynold?”

“Jane,” Reynold ignored Bridget, “don’t you think your readers deserve the best in investigative reporting?”

“No. I mean…”

“Don’t you think we should devise some tests for them? See how they react?”

“Like what?”

“I don’t know…we can have Bridget spill her drink all over the floor. Or we can have Bridget trip and say she broke her ankle. Or we can have Bridget try to send the sushi back, demanding that it be cooked more thoroughly.”

Brilliant, I thought, but we were too chicken to do any of that. I did, however, tell them that it was Bridget’s birthday—the big one-seven. All the waitresses came over carrying a beautifully arranged dessert of oranges and rice-covered ice cream balls with a candle sticking out the top. They sang “Happy Birthday.” Bridget was mortified—on several levels. First, she’s 20. Second, she isn’t such a fan of being sung to in public, even though they were very classy about it (not à la T.G.I.Friday’s, with big hats and the like). Third, it looked like she only had two friends to go out with on her birthday.

Reynold and I were delighted.

Now, I supposed I better move on to the real draw of Oysy: the food. The food is superb. I know I’m not the authority on sushi, but Nora, Bridget, and Reynold agree with me on this. It’s good sushi.

Both the miso soup ($3) and the Ganmo soup ($4)—a miso soup base with tofu tempura, yam noodle, mushrooms and green onions—are good choices to start out with, especially when it’s cold outside. Their tempura in general is really good—crispy with that delicious fried food taste, surprisingly light, and not too greasy. I’d never seen a lotus root tempura with chicken filling ($5) before, but it’s incredibly good—very tangy. And the vegetable tempura maki ($6), with pieces of tempura green bean, sweet potato, asparagus, and carrot inside the roll, is also tasty (as well as one of the smaller rolls, so messy situations like the one described above are avoided).

There is a whole section of special maki rolls on the menu, named after everything from mythical animals to gems to seasons to cities. Mayonnaise and sushi used to sound really gross to me (and still does, come to think of it), but the Oregon roll ($6) is actually quite good—chicken tempura, masago (an Icelandic caviar—how fancy!), cucumber, teriyaki sauce, and mayonnaise. I also really like the San Francisco roll ($7), and not just because I’m from there. It has fried oyster, masago, avocado, cucumber, and tonkatsu sauce (a mix of mainly ketchup, Worcestershire sauce, and sake). Oysy also has a very generous sashimi platter ($18), several grilled and cooked choices for the non-sushi fans, and various salads and side dishes. And of course, edamame ($3), which I have since learned how to eat…just not very gracefully.

Oysy

Address: 888 South Michigan Avenue

Phone: (312) 922-1127

Via CTA: Take the #6 to Michigan and Balbo or the Red Line to Roosevelt

Via car: From Lake Shore Drive, turn left onto East Roosevelt Road. Turn right onto South Michigan Avenue.