I blinked and I almost missed it. Next to Ted Baker and just down the block from Hermès in the Gold Coast on Rush Street, sits a narrow door. This is the easy-to-overlook entrance to Jellyfish. As I wound my way up the stairs to the second floor I found myself in an intimate yet modern eclectic space. The sleek white furniture and open windows beckoned me to sit down and order a cocktail, so I did. While it may not be totally traditional, I find that sushi, and fish in general, pairs well with bubbles. I ordered a glass of prosecco, upon which my knowledgeable server recommended adding in Pur Likor Elderflower. This was genius — it added deep notes of amber and light florals without overpowering the prosecco. Just like that I had found an aromatic new cocktail for spring.
My first bite was of the Tuna Tartare. Served with wonton chips, this light yet flavorful dish married many fresh ingredients. The avocado, cilantro and jalapeño were expected, but the orange ponzu added a pleasant, tangy citrus kick. I then sampled a stunning selection of Sashimi (raw fish) – including Hamachi (yellowtail), Nama Sake (salmon), Uni (sea urchin), Unagi (BBQ eel) and Toro (fatty tuna). The fish at Jellyfish comes from all over the world and the chef spends hours, after the restaurant closes, meticulously ordering it. He is obsessed with getting the best of the best, which as you may have guessed, means that the Uni only comes from Japan.
With a rotating menu of five to six specials that change each month, I had the opportunity to try an out-of-the-box sushi roll called the Jellyfish Sting. Made with spicy avocado, shrimp and topped with grilled jellyfish, I really pushed myself out of my comfort zone to eat this. I took a big sip of prosecco and then placed the roll in my mouth. The roll itself was wonderful. The sticky white rice was well cooked and the spicy avocado paired nicely with the shrimp, and as far as I can tell, completely masked the flavor of the jellyfish. The rubber-band like texture was definitely a first for me but then again, so was trying jellyfish.
Next, came a slightly more familiar dish, Spicy Chili Tofu. The pan-seared tofu was drenched in hot Korean chili sauce, accompanied by white rice and veggies. The serious heat from this dish awakened my taste buds and I loved every single bite. The light and subtle flavors of the tofu paired with the robust spices in the sauce in a way that created a tantalizing profile of flavors. This dish was unexpectedly complex. It was such an intense taste experience, especially considering that it was tofu, and I was happy to have the prosecco to cleanse my palate for what was still to come.
I soon found myself face to face with another special on the menu – the Grilled Chicken & Rock Shrimp, which was garnished with crispy fried rice. The grilled chicken sat atop the rock shrimp, grilled asparagus and lotus root. The chicken was marinated in a Mongolian teriyaki sauce that tied the two proteins together. The white tendrils of fried rice and delicate lotus root added a welcome crunch, and the vegetables an aromatic earthiness.
To end the meal, I dug my spoon into a silky chocolate brownie topped with Belvedere vodka ice cream and brûléed bananas. The sugary crispness of the bananas added a mouthwatering textural contrast to the warm, soft brownie. The cold and slightly boozy ice cream provided a refreshing finish.
In short, Jellyfish is an adventurous eater’s playground that will beckon even the boldest diners to venture out of their comfort zone.
1009 N. Rush Street, Chicago, IL 60611