I've never been more conflicted by a place than I am with T-Spot. This weekend, my wife and I had lunch at T-Spot, a smart new spot on Lincoln Avenue in Chicago.
The fun, flirty interior led us to anticipate a wonderful lunch. We ordered an octopus salad, vegetable tempura, and an assortment of sushi along with a raspberry iced tea. Other options on the menu included cooked fish dishes, and a make-it yourself tartare. Pick one of three sauces and one of several types of fish to create your ow raw fish tartare.
The T-spot prides itself on the tea. They even have a separate tea list, much like a wine list, but the only iced tea available was mediocre. It was served unsweetened with a very small cup of loose sugar and a spoon, and it wasn't very flavorful. I was disappointed the other iced teas described on the list weren't available because I would have preferred any of them to raspberry. Perhaps the 40+ varieties of hot teas they serve are better, but the weather this weeked dictated a cool beverage.
The octopus salad arrived, and we both tought it was only OK. The seaweed's "slimy" aspect overwhelmed the texture of the octopus. Next was the vegetable tempura. The vegetables were fine, but the coating was undercooked. I'm not sure how that works (perhaps the oil was too cool?), but the tempura coating next to the vegetables was wet, doughy, and undercooked.
So why am I having any trouble reviewing T-Spot? Sounds hands-down like a pretty mediocre place, right?
Well, then the sushi arrived. And it was some of the best, freshest fish I've ever had in Chicago. Only Matsumoto competes. We enjoyed some wonderful otoro (fatty tuna), a naturally buttery piece of fish which I've only seen in much more upscale restaurants. It dissolves in your mouth and leaves behind fabulous flavors. The tako (octopus) was fresh and tasted of seawater. Similarly, we enjoyed mackeral, salmon eggs, and other pieces of fresh fish sushi.
I say the sushi was great, but that's not true. Sushi refers to the rice the fish is served on, and their sushi balls didn't hold together, falling apart amidships when picked up with chopsticks. The fish on top was wonderful, but the rice, like the tempura and the octopus salad, didn't quite hold together.
I'm hoping that T-Spot improves with age and that they get the secondary dishes down. The mochi we had for dessert was wonderful, the service was prompt, and friendly, the restaurant stylish and clean, and the sushi was outstanding, if a bit expensive.
I would suggest T-Spot heartily to anyone who was fish-focused, but I'd be sure to warn them about the current shortcomings of the retaurant. I'd also encourage the owners to spend as much effort and time on the incidental dishes as they obviously have on the funky decor and the procurement of the wonderful fresh fish.
3925 N Lincoln