Best of Rockford: Finding the best sushi in town

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Are you a potential Best of Rockford aspiring writer? Some of our Best contributors have bailed on us. We need a few good men (and women) to write about those things uniquely Rockford. There are a few rules, and it has to be hometown, no chains (no exceptions). Contact me, Mike Leifheit, at Here is a wonderful new article by Andrew Kellogg.

Seeking good sushi? A few suggestions

By Andrew Kellogg

Seeking fresh, quality sushi in any Midwestern town can be a frustrating experience, if not an exercise in futility. Luckily, Rockford’s proximity to O’Hare and Chicago aid us in having several good choices for sushi. I don’t think we’re going to have the consistent quality of the better houses in Chicago, such as the Sai Café or Sushi 28, anytime soon, but we are not as far behind as one might think, either. The following restaurants have their own strong points, making each worth seeking.

Shogun is an interesting destination. It is in the same complex as the sometimes-boisterous Silver Lounge, which may or may not be a good thing, depending on your mood. The waterfall pond beckons you in serenely, but if it is late, there can be spillover music from next door. The sushi bar is set up to your left, and has a nice display of the various fish they have on hand for the evening. I like to sit here so I can decide what looks good. Shogun has a large variety of special Maki (roll) variations, and it is a good place for experimentation. I think they do the best job of hand rolls (Temaki) in town. These cones are overfilled with fresh fish and vegetables. Try to include one in your assortment when dining here; the spicy tuna is a good bet. To the left of the bar, you’ll notice a couple of private rooms comfortably appointed with the traditional low tables. These are perfect for groups of eight to 12. I’ve spent a few long nights here, and it is something to remember. Shogun also has Teppan tables for those who love the showier side of Japanese cooking.

Marc’s Fusion Café is the newest comer to the sushi business, though he himself has been around Rockford preparing sushi in other establishments for about a dozen years. The reason he has been able to go out on his own successfully is he may be the city’s best sushi chef. He is very consistent with his cuts, and his rolls are always solid and well-balanced. He is keen on maintaining the freshest seafood he can obtain. He’s almost always behind the small sushi bar, and is entertaining to watch as he prepares your dinner. His rolls tend to be bigger than most, so be careful when ordering. I recommend balancing your sushi choices with one of his fine appetizers. I love his crab and prawn cakes with just the right touch of spice and seasonings. The room is smaller, quaint and stays pretty busy with many loyal customers. This is a good choice, though, for couples seeking a quieter night out. See if you get one of the back corner tables away from the door.

Paragon On State features a wonderful sushi bar, originally opened by Mr. Marc above, and is still doing a nice job despite his absence. The crowd seems to surge one week and thin the next, depending on the goings-on downtown, but at the busier times people sometimes forget about the seating at this excellent vantage point. The bar is long and offers an excellent display from which to make your choices. This feels the most urban of our sushi bars, and can make you feel like you’re on Clark Street without Sushi 28’s more imposing prices. Try pairing a tuna-mango roll with your favorite cocktail here the next time you’re around. Even if it’s just a quick stop after the show, it will add immensely to your evening out.

All right, if you’re from Rockford, you know JMK Nippon. It’s highly probable that you’ve gone with a group to one of their numerous Teppan tables and enjoyed the show at one time or another. But their sushi bar is really the best part of this large restaurant for many of us, and with good reason. It’s large, and they keep a great selection of seafood on hand. They have a variety of ways to order, either individually or combined in one of their dinners. If you have someone who’s still a sushi hold-out, (you know who you are), a good choice is one of their Bento boxes. These come with your choice of main course, rice, breaded pork, dumpling and a California roll. This is a perfect introduction, and ensures you won’t go home hungry. The more experienced know this is a good place to go for fatty tuna, eel, or more exotic fishes, pairing it with a saki or other wine from their well-sized listing. I have to admit that I seem to gravitate toward JMK more when the weather is nice. Their patio alongside the koi pond is one of my favorite spots in the city. Dining here on a warm night never ceases to satisfy, whether on a date, with friends or my kids when they’re in town. In fact, it is a nice night tonight…

Where to go

Shogun Japanese Restaurant is at 293 Executive Pkwy., Rockford. Info: (815) 394-0007.

Marc’s Fusion Café is at 4133 Charles St., Rockford. Info: (815) 713-2563.

Paragon On State is at 205 W. State St., Rockford. Info: (815) 963-1660.

JMK Nippon is at 2551 N. Perryville Road, Rockford. Info: (815) 877-0505.

Mike Leifheit’s “Best of Rockford” reviews locally-owned restaurants, businesses and Rockford life. The column will appear the third week of every month in the “Real Rockford” section of Vibe Entertainment. Anyone with suggestions for this column should send them to Leifheit at or The Rock River Times at or (815) 964-9767.

from the Aug 8-14, 2007, issue

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