Murasaki is a intimate sake bar on Chicago’s Gold Coast and after this trip is our favorite Chicago cocktail bar. The bar has a wide range of Sake, Shochu and Japanese whiskeys and a small menu of Japanese bar snacks, including edamame gyoza and takoyaki. The bartenders are really friendly and walked us through the drinks menu and made some excellent suggestions for whiskey and Shochu. The bar is relatively low, so at the bar you sit on comfy chairs rather than bar stools. The flat screen TV above the bar plays classic samurai movies; Rashoman was playing the night I was there and it turns out one of the regulars brings in classic samurai DVDs for the bar to play. There are also two private karaoke rooms for rent.
The Dumpling: The menu of bar snacks includes pork or shrimp shumai, edamame gyoza and takoyaki. The edamame gyoza made for a tasty snack; the combination of the whole edamame in the filling and the crispiness of the fried wrapper gave them a nice mouth feel and the edamame had a mild nutty flavor. They don’t use egg in the wrapper so these dumplings are vegan.
I also tried the takoyaki which were really good. Takoyaki are octopus filled dumplings made from a wheat flour-based batter cooked in a mold that creates the characteristic spherical shape. Takoyaki are usually served brushed with a Worcestershire style sauce, drizzled with Japanese mayonnaise and topped with shaved Bonito, pickled ginger and flakes of dried seaweed. Marusaki makes an elevated takoyaki by paying attention to the details. Rather than just a haphazard drizzle of mayo from a squirt bottle and some sprinkled on pickled ginger, each dumpling was individually topped with its own crown of mayo and a little jewel of pickled ginger. Marusaki uses shaved slivers of Bonito rather than flakes or small sheets and so when the dish was served, the slivers of Bonito waved and shimmied in the micro-convention currents of heat coming off the dumplings.
The Dipping Sauce: The edamame gyoza came with a slightly spicy soy vinaigrette dipping sauce that was a really nice compliment to the dumplings; the sauce resembled a light vinaigrette salad dressing.
The Location: Murasaki is located mid-block on W. Ontario Street between North St. Clair and North Fairbanks Street.