It's so small, passersby may not have noticed. But a posh new sushi bar - which plans to have a full liquor license and arsenal of fresh fish - just opened in south Oak Park.
The 30-seat Sen Sushi Bar is nestled at 814 S. Oak Park Ave., which formerly housed S3 Kitchen. Just south of Van Buren, the neighborhood is also home to such local dining stalwarts as Lalo's and Avenue Ale House.
Oak Parker Chaidanai Chaiprasert owns the restaurant and runs it with his wife, Varanya. He's no stranger to the Oak Park dining scene, as he partnered with his mother 10 years ago to open Mama Thai on Madison Street.
Chaiprasert, 35, had always talked about opening a sushi restaurant with his friend and chef Tony Silp - who was previously a chef at Tsunami Japanese Restaurant in Chicago. The owner drives past the Southtown business district (Oak Park Avenue, just by the Eisenhower Expressway) frequently and believed another restaurant would thrive there.
They considered trying a menu that fused Japanese and Thai foods, but instead went with the traditional Japanese cuisine. The menu includes raw as well as cooked meats and fish and a variety of sushi rolls.
Sen Sushi Bar eventually will have a full liquor license, serving wine, beer and liquor. But the liquor license application is still pending. For now, the restaurant is BYOB.
The original plan was for the restaurant to be called Sen-Asian Bowl and Sushi Bar and to occupy the space next door. But the Seattle Sutton's Healthy Eating franchise next door did not want to close, according to Chaiprasert.
The restaurant opened July 19 and has been slowly getting up to speed. The menu will feature an array of fish, some imported from Japan, and they will only keep them for two or three days to stay fresh. Sen is Japanese for thousand, to signify the variety of their menu.
They feature an unusual dessert menu, which includes items such as green tea crème brûlée, tempura ice cream or red bean gelato.
Opening the restaurant was a labor of love for Chaiprasert, who built the tables and stained the poplar walls, as he and his wife worked late nights to get things ready. Construction took 3-4 months.
"My contractor wanted to hire me to do condos," he said, laughing.
Sen Sushi Bar is open for lunch and dinner and available for carryout and delivery.
The zen of sen: Tony Silp prepares sushi at Sen Sushi Bar on Oak Park Avenue.