Pan-Asian elegance

Ryan Wenzel

If you’ve walked through downtown Evanston in past few months, you probably noticed the appearance of a new restaurant with dark wood exterior and large windows. Koi Chinese & Sushi, 624 Davis St., opened Feb. 7 of this year.

The restaurant is co-owned by Bing Zhou and Robert LaPata. Zhou, who helped found Chen’s Mandarin Szechwan Cuisine, created the menu and is the restaurant’s executive chef. A veteran of restaurant company Lettuce Entertain You, LaPata’s past projects include the Cajun restaurant Heaven on Seven in Chicago.

Koi is marked by what the owners call “simple and elegant” design. Upon entering customers find themselves in a candle-lit lounge with black leather couches and a stone fireplace. The dining area is contemporary, with hardwood floors, pristine walls and a small waterfall.

Koi’s menu attempts to accommodate every customer. The menu includes several popular Chinese dishes, such as sesame chicken and Peking duck. Fresh fish is air-shipped to the restaurant from Japan, allowing for several less common Asian dishes, as well, such as yellowtail snapper, monkfish livers and elephant clams.

As the restaurant’s name suggests, Koi prides itself on its sushi. The sushi menu consists of 25 maki rolls, from basic cucumber and California rolls to the Dragon Maki — eel and shrimp tempura in a sweet barbecue sauce. Sushi chef Guosheng Yu wraps maki rolls with seaweed alternatives such as cucumber, avocado and fish.

Koi also has a comprehensive dessert list. Customers can indulge in molten lava chocolate cake with lychee ice cream, fresh plum strudel with ginger ice cream and tempura ice cream with bananas.

A full bar in the restaurant’s rear is backed by gold mesh screens. Popular drinks include mai-tais, Koi’s 15 specialty martinis and sake.

Koi also offers delivery, take-out, catering and private dining for up to 100.

Although it only has been open for three months, several Northwestern students already have sampled Koi’s cuisine. Most students were impressed with the restaurant’s ambience and gave the food a good review.

“The atmosphere was great, but the food was even better,” said McCormick freshman Matt Cohlmia. “Everyone in my group enjoyed his or her meal, and I’ll definitely bring my girlfriend there when she visits this week.”

Weinberg freshman Sophie Huterstein said Koi definitely made her “top five” list.

“The atmosphere really lets you enjoy the food”, she said. “I thought the food was nicely done, and I’ll definitely go there again.”

Huterstein also noted that Koi was pleasantly different from most Evanston restaurants she has visited this year.

“Most restaurants I’ve gone to here tend to be filled with college students,” Huterstein said. “I liked that this restaurant attracted a mix of Evanston residents and Northwestern students.”