Owners Paul Onthuam and Choong Chankitisakoon have designed a sexy, lush, sophisticated space for sushi connoisseurs, and it's located just an easy walk from the Belmont Red Line. Walk up a few stairs and enter this fresh fish palace, where a long wooden sushi bar invites diners to sit down. On the opposite wall, lights project upward, making the space glowing and almost iridescent when the lights go dim at night.
Executive Chef Paul Chant, who has worked at Patina and L'Orangerie in Los Angeles, and United Noodles and Rain in New York, brings the idea of small tapas plates to the Raw, and Meat and Fish portions of the menu. Here, visitors will find Chant's concoctions, which range from an heirloom tomato salad with fresh mozzarella, capers, olives and dates with homemade pesto, to a hangar steak with roasted bell peppers, fried okra and crisp onion rings.
Fresh fish is king; it is delivered daily to Ukai's doors. Try cuts of sashimi, or join the Maki Club, with concepts like Pink Lady, a combo of salmon, avocado, scallion rolled with pink soy paper topped with torched salmon and ikura; or Beauty and the Beast, which comes with cream cheese, avocado and crab meat topped with fresh tuna and eel ($8 each).
Sports freaks can indulge their fandom with fun rolls like the Sox Roll, which comes with super white tuna, cilantro, kampyo rolled with black tobiko and spicy sauce. Ukai is the perfect space for a first date or just a nice night out for those with a bit of cash on hand — most rolls cost around $8. But be prepared to order more than one of each.
Average cost: $10-$20
Centerstage Reviewer: Alicia Eler