The Sushi's Kosher at Hamachi on Howard Street

By Benjamin Woodard on January 7, 2013 7:36am | Updated on January 8, 2013 6:49am

WEST RIDGE — No dairy. No red meat. No shellfish.

And don't even think about turning on the oven.

These rules are new to head sushi chef Tee Shakya at Hamachi Sushi Bar, a newly opened kosher joint on Howard Street, the only restaurant of its kind in the city.

"I'm learning a lot," said the 44-year-old chef who's worked in Taiwan and New York, where he served sushi to such big-screen stars as Michael Douglas and Brad Pitt. "It's a different culture, tradition and religion."

The meshing of Japanese and Jewish culinary traditions has been well-received by the surrounding Orthodox Jewish community since opening late last year.

"This is the only sushi place I've been to," said Ayala Fershtman, who sat down Thursday night at one of the restaurant's tables for her friend's birthday.

The 14-year-old grew up in a Minnesota town that only had one kosher restaurant.

"In New York and stuff there's tons of kosher," but not in Chicago, said her friend, Chaya, 15, before returning to the menu.

Along with the classic California and spicy tuna rolls, priced around $6, Hamachi serves black-rice rolls like the "Black Dragon," which contains fake shrimp tempura, fake crab, avocado, cucumber, tuna, salmon and snapper, drizzled with wasabi mayo — all for $18.95.

Deep-fried or smoked salmon sandwiches are also offered.

The restaurant's owners — Uri Adler, Asher Kohn and Oleg Kostovetsky — sought to fill the need for kosher sushi in West Ridge, said restaurant manager Jon Schneider.

Schneider said 75 percent of his customers are Jewish.

No shellfish is allowed, so faux crab and shrimp are used in rolls. All fish delivered to the restaurant must have the skin attached, too, he said.

And according to Jewish law, a restaurant can't serve both dairy and meat. So forget about those deep-fried cream cheese rolls.

Hamachi also closes shop when the sun sets on Fridays in recognition of the Sabbath, Schneider said.

Every so often a rabbi from the Chicago Rabbinical Council will drop in to be sure proper law is followed.

Before Hamachi, Schneider, 27, managed a kosher deli in Skokie, but following the rules for kosher fish presents a greater challenge.

"It's tough," he said.

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