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The End of a Long Relationship

The End of a Long Relationship
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    Post #1 - January 12th, 2009, 5:15 pm
    Post #1 - January 12th, 2009, 5:15 pm Post #1 - January 12th, 2009, 5:15 pm
    The End of a Long Relationship

    It's always hard when you have to stop going to a restaurant you've enjoyed in the past, but sometimes there is no choice. It is with a sadness in my heart that I must say goodbye to what was once my favorite Japanese restaurant, Matsuya.

    I've been going there since it first opened at its Clark street south of Addison location, and I even have memories of it having been on Clark near Division, although that memory is a bit foggy. Nevertheless, it's been around for at least the past thirty some years. I took my wife there on our first date and we've been married over 30 years.

    Our early favorite dish was Chicken Teriyaki, which once consisted of 4 or 5 thighs nicely split and grilled with what we thought was the best sauce we ever tasted. Bottled teriyaki sauce couldn't compare. Years later, when they went to "all white meat", it ceased to be our "go there for" dish. Our second favorite was Saba or mackerel teriyaki, large portions of fish in the same wonderful sauce, which was definitely worth going there for. The various combination diners were also very good, their tempura was once as good as we ever found. We went there often, usually with our three kids, who, for the first year or so, only wanted rice to eat. One time, our oldest, who was only about 12 at the time decided to branch out with an order of seaweed - nori - and rice. Over time, though, they all came to love Japanese food, and all food really. One even worked many years at various Japanese restaurants, including the one in the Nikko Hotel, where we had our first kaiseki dinner. And another son is a sous-chef in Seattle today.

    Anyhow, we went to Matsuya a lot, through all the years. bringing friends, relatives and whoever else we could convince that Japanese food was good. After they started serving sushi, we often ordered plates of sushi with our meals. It was a good family time. But, as the kids grew older and moved away, and as we became more familiar with the many other Japanese restaurants over the 30 years, we went less and less to Matsuya, usually only a few times a year.

    Last week, we found ourselves not wanting to go home and cook so we looked at each other and said, "How about Matsuya. We haven't been there in ages."

    We were hungry so we started off with a couple of rolls of sushi, in this case unagi, one of our favorites. It tasted OK, but that's all it was. Nothing like what we've had in the past. The sauce that came on this sushi was way too salty and the sushi itself tasted mushy with not much flavor. We each ordered one of the combination plates, mine had chicken and beef teriyaki and my wife's had sunomono, and chicken teriyaki, and both had tempura.

    Where to start.

    Tempura - greasy, the shrimp had no shrimp flavor and the eggplant and other vegetable were greasy and limp. (Great tempura can be found at Sunshine cafe in Andersonville). We could barely eat it, and left half on our plates. The sunomono consisted of very limp cucumbers with a few floppy defrosted shrimp. No crunch, no bite, just a soggy vinegary dish. The beef teriyaki consisted of a thin slice of very dry and tough beef, no flavor other than the very salty sauce. The chicken teriyaki could have been OK if they would have grilled the chicken with the sauce but it appears to have been cooked and then dipped in sauce so there were no crisp edges, just salty chicken in soggy skin. And the teriyaki sauce was just pretty nondescript, not flavorful as it had been in the past. The tea was fine. Dessert consisted of a scoop of either chocolate (not very good) or green tea (better) ice cream.

    As we left and got into our car, we looked at each other and one of us said, "Well, I guess we will be striking that one off our list. Never again". It's sad, a place that we treasured throughout our lives has let us down. Is it us or is it them? I heard that the restaurant changed ownership in the past few years. Maybe that's the problem. It would have been easier for us if they closed, because we have so many family memories of that place. But they will keep going on serving not so good food, and and we'll have to keep trying other places to look for a new restaurant that charms us as much as Matsuya did in the past.

    Goodbye Matsuya

    Does anyone else have a long term relationship with a restaurant that they had to end?

    Matsuya Restaurant
    3469 N. Clark Street
    Chicago, IL 60657
  • Post #2 - January 12th, 2009, 6:13 pm
    Post #2 - January 12th, 2009, 6:13 pm Post #2 - January 12th, 2009, 6:13 pm
    That's a good, depressing post.

    I'm a long time fan of Matsuya as well (though not that long). I can appreciate your disappointment. However, it was one meal. Many here take exception to one-meal pans of new places with no track record. To ding a long-time love with a generally positive (though not stellar, I concede) reputation, based on one meal after an extended absence, seems somehow even less fair. But if it was that bad, so bad that you could never conceive of the Matsuya you knew before going that low, even on its most "off" night, then I suppose it's worthy of reproach.

    I order from Matsuya regularly and eat in once and a while. I'd say that, fairly, it's not up to where it once was, but also that your experience is not the norm these days. I tend to ask the sushi chefs for recommendations and go for simple stuff like Osaka-style box pressed sushi (saba usually), soups, etc. Still plenty of multi-generation Japanese American families dining on the classics, though they might agree with you too.

    PS, not that non-Japanese can't be stellar sushi makers (they surely can), but the quality behind the bar goes way up when the older, very long-time Japanese boss is running the show at the bar. I haven't been able to figure out his schedule (if one exists), but he tends to come in late during the week.

    You might try Ginza downtown in addition to Sunshine.
  • Post #3 - January 12th, 2009, 6:45 pm
    Post #3 - January 12th, 2009, 6:45 pm Post #3 - January 12th, 2009, 6:45 pm
    I have been going to Matsuya for about 3 years but it was always a one trick pony for me. I went there for relatively inexpensive sushi. I don't think I have ever looked to it for anything more than the typical nigiri and maki. I have ordered a few typical accompaniments to a normal sushi menu such as gyoza or some agedashi dofu and once had an order of takoyaki (it was decent) but that's all I have asked of it. It has always delivered on these grounds.
  • Post #4 - January 13th, 2009, 7:18 am
    Post #4 - January 13th, 2009, 7:18 am Post #4 - January 13th, 2009, 7:18 am
    Many years ago, Matsuya was my go to place for tuna tempura, a dish I've never seen served anywhere else. I don't even think they served sushi at that time. Matsuya, similar to GNR Winner Sunshine Cafe, was more of a cooked food kind of Japanese place. I always went to Itto Sushi for well...sushi back in the day. I haven't been to Matsuya in years. Sorry to hear it may be going downhill. It was always a solid choice.
    Steve Z.

    “Only the pure in heart can make a good soup.”
    ― Ludwig van Beethoven
  • Post #5 - January 13th, 2009, 8:31 am
    Post #5 - January 13th, 2009, 8:31 am Post #5 - January 13th, 2009, 8:31 am
    As far as I am concerned Matsuya is still one of the best for well-priced, above average sushi and sashimi, and also does a few other dishes pretty well. I love their tempura soft shell crab, and on a cold day the seafood nabe (basically a Korean-style pepper/seafood/kimchee soup) is great.

    In a section of town that has seen the demise of quite a few standbys, most recently Bolat :( I celebrate the presence of Matsuya and still eat there often.
    "By the fig, the olive..." Surat Al-Teen, Mecca 95:1"
  • Post #6 - January 13th, 2009, 9:39 am
    Post #6 - January 13th, 2009, 9:39 am Post #6 - January 13th, 2009, 9:39 am
    I'm sorry that you had such a poor experience at Matsuya. When I was growing up, it was THE Japanese restaurant for our family. Every other option wasn't nearly as good.

    I haven't been to Matsuya in awhile. For years, the main deterrent was parking. There were times I couldn't find a space within half a mile of the restaurant. Then you had to hope that there wouldn't be a long wait.

    Recently, the quality has slipped, but certainly not to the extent that I'd never go back. For me, the star of the show has always been the mackerel; a very generous portion always perfectly cooked.

    I would venture to say that you've never been to Renga-Tei. If you had, then that would be your restaurant of choice for Japanese food. I recommend the combinations.

    If I'm in the area (and can find a parking space!), I'd definitely go to Matsuya. Otherwise, it's Renga-Tei.
  • Post #7 - January 13th, 2009, 10:25 am
    Post #7 - January 13th, 2009, 10:25 am Post #7 - January 13th, 2009, 10:25 am
    Hmm. Kinda depressing.
    Matsuya and Itto have always been my "go to" no frills spots for sushi and Japanese food. I found them both far superior to Kamehachi and Sai cafe (places other ppl seem to LOVE) for mid tier type of spots. Sad to hear of this. Haven't been to Matsuya in about a year.
    We cannot be friends if you do not know the difference between Mayo and Miracle Whip.
  • Post #8 - January 13th, 2009, 4:15 pm
    Post #8 - January 13th, 2009, 4:15 pm Post #8 - January 13th, 2009, 4:15 pm
    Actually Kamehachi was one of the places I once loved and had to say goodbye to. Somewhere back in the mists of time (80s, early 90s?) it seemed great value for money and a really nice overall atmosphere, form decor to service. Took my visiting parents there (my mother is an editor of books, journals, and museum catalogues on asian art/textiles/history) and had one of those memorably disastrous experiences. It was indeed only one, but I just never was up to going back for another try.

    Never was a regular at Matsuya but had one wonderful dinner there a very long time ago. Very sorry if it's gone down.
    "Strange how potent cheap music is."