Centuries of human history have shown that there’s just something appealing about stuff hidden inside of other stuff. Consider Russian nesting dolls, or Puppy Surprise. And Omakase Takeya is a tiny omakase-only sushi spot hidden in the basement of Ramen Takeya in the West Loop. So there’s already something special about it, even before you eat anything.
A meal here takes planning - this isn’t the kind of place where you can just wander in and grab a spot at the sushi bar. There are seven seats, with only two seatings a night, and it’s pricey - $130 for 16 courses. But while the upstairs ramen shop is loud and teeming with people, Omakase Takeya is a serene bubble of calm. So after navigating the crowd (or standing awkwardly at the bar), you’ll head downstairs to a tiny room with a handful of chairs, no windows, and virtually non-existent cell phone service. It’s like an elegant doomsday bunker filled with sushi instead of canned peas. The good news is that you won’t miss being able to get 37 texts from your boss about who’s ordering the balloons for the office party tomorrow - you’ll be busy being watching the chef work, and seeing exactly how many courses it takes before you get full (probably about 12).
The experience starts with the head chef showing you a box of fish, and that will probably be the last time he’ll make eye contact with you - he’ll be silently focused on feeding you for the next two hours. But a waiter is there to help with drinks, and he’ll keep you informed about what you’re eating.
The menu consists of both warm and cold dishes, and individual courses change daily. That being said, there are a few things you can probably expect to see. Like a silky chawanmushi (we’ve had it with mushroom and flounder), and a lot of well-prepared nigiri - for example, kinmedai, cold smoked salmon, and maguro topped with foie gras. There might be a course of miso black bass and Japanese pumpkin, followed by shabu shabu. Whatever you end up eating, the whole meal will be delicious. By the end you’ll definitely be full, but you’ll have the option to order from the a la carte menu -and you might want to, just so you can hang out longer.
Like any tasting menu, the omakase here requires trust - you’re putting a lot of time and money into someone else’s hands. And if you’re prone to claustrophobia and/or have a fear of being buried alive, Omakase Takeya might make you nervous. But this place is a calm oasis below a crowded restaurant, in a really busy neighborhood, in a huge, hectic city. So in addition to the great food, feeling like you’re on your own private sushi island is definitely worth the price.
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Silky and light, and a great way to begin the omakase.
There’s going to be a lot of it, and it will all be good. Some of our favorite pieces are the torched kinmedai and the akami topped with foie gras.
Uni And Salmon Roe Over Rice
If you like uni, you’ll like this. And if you don’t like uni, we’re sorry.
The tamago here is almost cake-like in texture. We’ve had it infused with shrimp and yam. It’s a great end to the sushi portion of the menu.
Green Tea Ice Cream
The dessert varies, but this ice cream has little rice crispies that give it great texture. It’s also sprinkled with some matcha powder so there’s a slight “eating a baseball field” taste.