Shogun, Part Two

July 1, 1993

Shogun, Part Two

By Mike Leifheit

By Mike Leifheit

Restaurant Critic

Owner of the Irish Rose (Rockford) and Irish Rose North (Rockton) restaurants, Mike Leifheit’s “Dining Out In Rockford” reviews locally-owned restaurants.” These reviews are also available on his website: IrishRoseRockford.com and featured on the Chris Bowman Show, WNTA talk radio AM 1330.

Sarab Stevens (the young singer I met through Izzy at the Artery) and Karen Elyea at Minglewood, her girlfriend, and drummer Janet Guffey, and I are to have sushi at the Shogun on a Thursday night. I start my day as usual at 6 a.m. I go to Chicago and come back with wild salmon (white King salmon) and morels. I have to get everyone dialed in on the new menu items from the kitchen staff to the serving staff at both restaurants. Then I have to settle business for both, and do the bank. By then, it is after five.

I’m too wound up to take a nap, even though I know it would be the best thing I could do. I take my motorcycle for a short ride. I drink some coffee, and then some white wine. Now I am winding down. I say to my waitress, Lee, that if I am going to have dinner with young people in the future, I’m going to insist that we have it at a reasonable hour. Actually, I love to dine late; it is just tough for me to do it on a market day.

It is beautiful outside, and I consider taking the motorcycle but rule it out because I am already pretty tired. When I get to Shogun, I have momentary trouble finding the entrance. Evidently, I missed the 12-foot neon surrounding the door that says in giant letters, SHOGUN. When I do figure it out, I feel pretty foolish. I enter and immediately acquire a seat at the bar. Could this be a place where you could sit at the bar and eat? I wonder, but I forget to ask. I order a martini and settle in to wait. Not very much later, the crew shows up. Their guitar player, Pete Sandona, has come along. Turns out I know Janet; she sold me advertising for the Belvidere Daily Republican.

We get a table in the sushi bar. My guests all had eaten here the day before. It didn’t dampen their enthusiasm. (Did I tell you how grateful I am we didn’t have to do Tepan? When I was on the road, there was a Tepan restaurant across from every hotel in California. I ate in them so often, it will probably be 100 years before I am ready to do that again. I do so like the fact that both restaurants in Rockford purporting to be Japanese do sushi. It is a welcome change of pace.)

The space is open, airy and attractive. Our server immediately brings us the sushi order sheets. I check off a half dozen items. Janet looks at my order and says, “Only Nori?” I reply that it is the only thing that is authentic. She seems satisfied with my answer. She and the other two order primarily the California stuff including a vegetarian version that is ordered by our heroine songstress, vegan, secretary of NORML. Ah, if I were only 30 again. I’m not being critical here; that sort of stuff is all the rage in the big cities; I just prefer to be more traditional. The great tastes are the great tastes for a reason. The classical recipes are the best, but they have to be learned. It is our acquired tastes that are our long-term favorites in life.

After a minor wrestling match, they bring me a nice hot sauce; it is really very tasty. The sushi and all the California stuff arrives, and my sushi is wonderful. My sushi is wonderful. My sushi is wonderful! I inhale it. I order a hot sake, and that makes everything seem even more wonderful. I don’t know if my young friends are right about it being better than JMK; I would say about the same. I don’t know that much about sushi, but I do know fish, and the fish that all my items were made with, was superb. I highly recommend this experience if you have not had it. Insist on the hot sauce.

The following night, after writing the bills, I take a walk across the street to say hi at the Artery. Much to my surprise, I get a preview of what will come at the Rockview on Saturday. Sara is there with Pete, the guitar player. They are rehearsing. I like their music a lot. Pete’s approach is jazzy. Sara almost sings in a scat mode. They finish up with the old Melanie “I’ve Got a Brand New Pair of Roller Skates” song. Then there is musician talk about how it is only a three-chord song, but I thought it was good anyhow. Sometimes life needs to be simple. Izzy was right. She does have the voice of angel. That’s simple. (They probably didn’t understand my attitude about the sushi either.)

I had arranged to have this weekend off from cooking for the express purpose of putting these two columns together. Saturday night, when I would have (or some would say when I should have) been cooking at Irish Rose North, I instead write the first column. The column flows easily onto the keyboard. When I go down to my restaurant, I wave it happily. I make a copy to take to the Artery. Izzy is not there. I leave it wedged in the door. When I come back again later, Sara and Janet are rehearsing. Steve Repka hands me my column. Sara has proofed it and corrected the spelling of NORML and her name. There is no h.

Then there is nothing to do but wait. Finally, it is almost time, and I am just getting ready to leave when Patty Shepherd steps through the door. I met Patty through my friend, Sonya Dowdakin. We all had dinner together at Maria’s one night. Maybe we can do that once again, and I could do a story. Hmmm! I talk to Patty a little, but tell her where I’m headed. It’s important column business.

I enter the Rockview already tired and pretty darn relaxed. The place is very busy. The band is playing, Sara is singing. Izzy is there; so are Karen Elyea, Tania Reitman and Elisha Williams. Such wonderful, beautiful company,but I am a party pooper. It has been too long a week. I need some time off, so when nobody is looking, I slip quietly out the door. Wednesday afternoon, Sara calls me again; they have another gig at the Rockview. It is Saturday, May 11 at 9:30 p.m., the same night as Groove Walk; check it out.

Shogun Japanese Restaurant, 293 Executive Parkway. Hours and days of operation: Lunch Monday through Saturday, 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Dinner Monday through Thursday, 4:30 to 10:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 4:30 to 11 p.m. Sunday, 4:30 to 9 p.m. Telephone: 815-394-0007

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