[Photographs: Joe Roy]
Gosu in Logan Square is one of those places I walk by everyday without ever actually stopping in. Not only does its menu overlap with excellent next door neighbor Hatchi’s Kitchen, the seemingly mandated number of Korean/Japanese restaurants that abound in Chicago neighborhoods tends to create an inverse effect where I don’t end up going to any of them. Rather than continuing to judge a book by its cover, though, I stopped in recently to check out the fried options on offer.
The Combination Tempura ($11.00) (which consists of battered and fried shrimp, carrot, onion, gourd, zucchini, eggplant, and sweet potato) makes a hell of a first impression. All the vegetables are great under their light, crackly coating. In particular, the sweet potato is almost spreadably creamy, the sweet carrot crunches just so, and the onion features two attached petals fried together. Let’s lobby for all fried onions to be served this way. The easy star, though is the shrimp: toothsome for an instant before melting in your mouth, it makes a slam-dunk case for tempura to the usually less-than-impressed (myself included in that lot).
The Monkey Brain ($9.00), if you can get past the name, is strikingly presented and tasty to boot. Think of it as an avocado-based Scotch egg: the cavity of a skinned, pitted specimen is stuffed with spicy tuna, imitation crab, and masago, rolled in panko, and deep fried. Served quartered with a tangle of shaved carrot, daikon, and beet, the dish is rich from the avocado and layered with flavors I’d be hard-pressed to try to identify. I’ll happily be taking another swing at doing so on my next visit, though.
The only completely deep fried roll on the menu, the Claudia ($11.00) comes swinging like it has something to prove. But lacking the subtle balance of the Tempura or the bright vibrancy of the Monkey Brain, the roll hits you like a sack of bricks. The menu says the roll is made up of more imitation crab, smoked salmon, and kanpyo, but everything sort of blends together, with no strong flavor one way or the other. And the greens in the center take on the taste and texture of cooked frozen spinach. Maybe the writing is on the wall that there’s no place for a fully composed roll in the deep fryer—as contrasted with versions with a fried component that don’t leave you feeling instantly, inexplicably, stuffed.
So when the dust settles, two out of three remain. I’ll take it, and next time you’re walking aimlessly north on California Avenue, take the time to stop in to Gosu yourself. It may just surprise you.