East meets West Dearborn

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The visual feast is as tempting as the menu at Crave, a new restaurant-lounge in West Dearborn for the ultra chic.

I could have gazed endlessly at the jellyfish tank, a blue box of water populated by translucent white jellyfish, gracefully pulsating and riding the currents, like ballerinas in frothy white tulle pirouetting in slow motion.

If you tire of the jellyfish, turn your eyes to the copper wall with graceful cascades of ivy. The color subtly changes depending on the light and angle, sometimes resembling a new penny, sometimes an old one.

If you tire of the wall, look up at the chandelier, which is a tangled sphere of fence wire dipped in chrome. Tiny white lights illuminate the chrome, which sparkles and casts shadows that look like a winter landscape.

If you tire of the chandelier, check out the bathroom. Through the wall between the men’s room and the women’s room you can see vague shapes and movement (only at the sink, of course).

The main dining room has two rows of lounge-seating in firm but deep couches that bracket large coffee tables. The food, which emphasizes Japanese cuisine but successfully incorporates Mediterranean flavors, has been adapted to this kind of seating. Chopsticks are de rigueur, but a tiny square plate is available to help you make the transition from coffee table to mouth without fish landing on your lap.

I ordered a most delicate Chilean sea bass, which was grilled with Mediterranean herbs, and just melted away in my mouth. The dish was scattered with pomegranate seeds, a refreshing change from limp bits of parsley. And there were little mounds of vegetables at each corner. Mine was supposed to come with grilled peppers and baby bok choy, but instead had raw peppers and asparagus.

An appetizer of fried calamari was exceptional, the most tender I’ve ever had.

But where the cuisine really soars is at the sushi bar, manned by chef Sam Ness (whose credits include the acclaimed Nobu in Manhattan). The $40 sashimi deluxe is presented with orchids and fans of paper-thin apples and pears. Slices of trout are wound together like a pinwheel, joining blocks of ahi tuna (my least favorite), bluefin tuna (dark red and rich as butter), salmon, squid, octopus, and caviar everywhere.

I also tried the dragon roll, long, snaky and green. It was filled with shrimp tempura, creating a nice crunch in the center, and topped with avocado and river eel.

Another roll, “California Crave,” featured king crab and strawberries with caviar on top and was served with little drops of mango puree for dipping.

The mango lobster appetizer failed to impress. Chunks of mango and lobster were sautéed then returned to the shell. Owner Khalil Ramadan told me that the best lobster comes from New Zealand, but it wasn’t nearly as good as the plain steamed lobster I’ve had in Maine and Prince Edward Island, Canada.

Around 10 p.m., Crave the restaurant morphs into Crave the lounge, with DJs spinning and plenty of action at the bar. Saketinis in many fruity variations (all $12) are a specialty of the house. The lychee saketini included vodka, sake and lychee juice with a big lychee nut at the bottom and garnished with a purple orchid.

In addition to the lounge, there’s a traditional dining room (no feasts for the eyes in there) and an outdoor patio.

Ramadan’s attention to detail is staggering. The only question that remains is whether there’s an audience for chic sushi in West Dearborn.

Elissa Karg dines for Metro Times. E-mail [email protected].

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