Big dinners — the kind where more than eight overeager diners descend upon one table at one restaurant for one night — are perilous. However, as a good friend prepared to go spend seven months abroad, I found myself in such a situation.
A venue for her parting meal was Chopsticks, a Japanese restaurant in a deceivingly non descript location on Wisconsin. Chopsticks is deceiving in a city that lacks a distinguished Asian cuisine scene, as the restaurant offers impressively good Japanese fare.
The most popular choice of drink (as this was a celebration) was sake. While I didn’t partake, making excuses of looming school work, I heard plenty of rave reviews from everyone at the table, who seemed to have tried every option on Chopsticks’ sake menu. If for nothing else, sake seemed to work as an admirable facilitator for breaking the ice and pushing conversation into motion.
The specialty at Chopsticks is sushi, but the restaurant excels across the menu. Everyone at the table was able to partake in communal platters of sushi and appetizers as well as an entree. The service was not perfect, but it was, for the most part, quick and surprisingly responsive for the size of our party; it seems well-suited for dining parties large and small. Moreover, the restaurant has a nice ambience, particularly in the upstairs seating area, which is quite spacious and sparsely decorated.
There is a large selection of sushi at Chopsticks, including a number of house and daily specials. My group ordered a large spread, which included sushi featuring eel, salmon, urchin, Tabasco sauce and avocado, among many other things, in a variety of combinations.
In addition to these sushi offerings, I also had spring rolls, edamame, dumplings and chicken teriyaki.Edamame is a delightful snack. It’s a strange, though welcome, feature of a typical Japanese meal, and my meal at Chopsticks was no exception.
The edamame was quite good, coming in a generous bowl and avoiding the pitfalls of excessive salt or staleness. The spring rolls, while small, were quite good and jam packed with fresh vegetables. The dumplings, which were steamed and stuffed with delicious pork, were a highlight. They came with a dipping sauce, and served as a great transition between sushi and heavier fare.
Finally, I had the chicken teriyaki, which, while a staple of Japanese cuisine, is often lifeless or unmemorable. In this case, however, I was quite taken by the generous portion — a healthy serving of chicken covered in just the right amount of sauce, which was neither overly sweet nor over-salted.
On the whole, Chopsticks is a great all-around Japanese offering. Much of the sushi is a tad overpriced, but this is balanced by the relative cheapness of the rest of the menu. In addition, it is highly recommended for large group dinners both in physical space and staff service. So, for anyone looking for a new local Japanese spot, this might be your new favorite choice.