Ani ( 3056 N. Lincoln Ave.; AniChicago.com ) is a tasty, education experience.
Owner/operator Ty Fujimura, who's also a certified sake professional, hosted a recent media tasting that introduced attendees to the ins and outs of rice wine as well as Chef Shin Matsuda's and Pastry Chef Erin Cade's excellent offerings.
The telegenic Fujimura discussed everything from the different types of sake to rituals such as overpouring so that the wine flows into the box that the glass is in ( the overpouring being a symbol of generosity and hospitality ).
From there, it was a culinary delight as patrons dined on various types of nigiri ( a type of sushi that consists of raw fish over pressed vinegared rice ), maki ( sushi rolls ), street fare ( including a wonderful Amish chicken thigh with condiments togarashi and yuzu kosho ), ramen ( and don't skimp on that broth ) and desserts ( a wonderful sesame panna cotta and matcha milk cake ).
Ani offers classes ( including one on March 24 )but whether it's in an organized class or on a date, you'll likely be schooled ( in a delicious way ).
Tortoise Club: checking in
A couple years ago, I checked out Tortoise Club ( 350 N. State St.; TortoiseClub.com ), and was impressed with its seemingly oxymoronic combination of simplicity and sophistication, with food and service.
I'm happy to report that nothing's changedeven as movers and shakers have increasingly noted this place. ( I overheard that former U.S. Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner recently patronized Tortoise. )
If anything, the dishes might be even better than I last remembered. The chicken-liver mousse ( with cherry gelee and sourdough toast ) was memorable, and the crab cake is pretty good, with the sriracha aioli just even to make it stand apart from offerings at other places. The pheasant piea seasonal favoritewas simply fantastic, and my tasty ( and ginormous ) lamb shank reminded me of the ribs the server brings out during the opening credits of The Flintstones cartoons.
Even the service was pretty impressive as our server, Marie, catered to practically every culinary whim we had. She was pretty knowledgeable about the dishesand even if she didn't know something, she immediately asked the chef.
Definitely stop by this place.