RA Sushi Bar Restaurant – Lombard, IL

We’re pretty understanding when it comes to visiting a new restaurant in their opening weeks. Kinks need to be worked out. Dishes need to be finalized. We get that. But this past weekend, we had what is now officially the winner of “Worst Dining Experience Ever.” I cannot, CANNOT, emphasize this enough.

Please, for the love of all that you hold dear, do NOT go to the Lombard, Illinois location of RA Sushi Bar And if you DO go, and your server’s name is AJ, just get up and leave. We’re saving you a headache that it’s not worth having.

Craving sushi for several days, we decided Sunday would be the perfect chance to give this new restaurant a try. We were on the road driving home from Rosemont after a weekend spent at the Flashback Weekend Horror Convention, when the hunger hit. The area surrounding Yorktown Mall is being remodeled with a “Streets of Yorkville” featuring a plethora of restaurants, which gives us plenty of new restaurants to try. We were excited. We were giddy. We were apparently delusional from hunger.

First walking into the restaurant, we were asked if we had a reservation. When we told her no, the hostess looked around as if wondering where she would be able to fit us in. The funny thing was, the restaurant was empty. Finally asking if we’d mind sitting at the sushi bar, we quickly agreed and took our seats.

A quick aside, I may be a vegetarian, but I love watching sushi chefs do their thing. A good sushi chef is like watching an artist with a brush.

We glanced through the menu briefly, oohing and aahing over the appetizer list, while I was disappointed in the poor vegetable maki selection. Three. There were only three. Cucumber, avocado, and vegetarian which was basically cucumber, avocado, asparagus and sprouts rolled into one.

Then the fun started. We were introduced to AJ.

A.J.: “Hi! I’m A.J. and I’ll be your server this evening.”

Us: “Hello”

A: “So, is this your first time eating sushi?”

U: “No, actually. We’re big fans.”

A: “Good, good. Well, since this is your first time eating sushi, I’m going to make sure it’s an enjoyable experience.”

Katie and I exchanged glances, wondering if she misheard us. So, after telling her we needed some time to look at the menu, she came back. We had already filled out the sushi menu, upon her return.

A: “Well, since this is your first time eating sushi, let me explain the seafood you see in front of you.”

Mike: “It’s not our first time eating sushi. And actually I’m a vegetarian, so I already know what I want.”

She turned to Katie at this point.

Katie: “I’m not sure if I’m in the mood for sushi.”

A: “What kind of fish is your favorite? I can point to some sushi that you would enjoy for your first experience.”

Now, we told her twice already that we weren’t new to the sushi experience. It was as if she was stuck on autopilot. She was waiting for a response to continue the next part of her script. And it became incredibly annoying.

K: “I’ve had sushi before, but I think I’m going for something else today.”

A: “Oh, okay. Well, I’ll be right back then.”

She comes back and looks over the sushi menu we’ve filled out. We make sure to point out the appetizers we’ve ordered (edamame and tofu dengaku), as well as Katie’s potsticker soup. She wandered off, but quickly came back out because she forgot what Katie ordered.

The meal was a nightmare. I received my entire order a good 10-15 minutes before Katie received her SOUP. And our appetizer didn’t show up until AFTER our main course. I wish I was kidding. I actually started laughing by this point, because I couldn’t believe all the problems we were having.

But, the even bigger question…how was the food? I’m glad the dengaku tofu came out last, because that was the only good part of our meal. Lightly fried in panko bread crumbs, and drizzled with a ginger sauce, it was the only flavorful part of the meal. The sushi seemed to be wrapped using regular grain white rice instead of sushi rice. My cucumber roll actually fell apart, the seaweed not properly wetted to keep it together. And the vegetarian roll, while pretty, was mostly tasteless.

Katie’s soup was even worse and has its own story. I had previous mentioned my vegetarianism to our server, yet she came out and asked if I’d like a bowl to share the CHICKEN and PORK soup. When the soup arrived in its bubbling cauldron, it looked like it could easily serve two people, until you counted what came with the pool of broth: 5 potstickers and 4 peapods, with a healthy dose of shredded carrot. Even worse, we had to perform kitchen 911 on it, as it apparently had no flavor. Mixing soy sauce, wasabi, and extra pickled ginger to make the soup edible, she was only able to eat the potstickers before throwing in the towel.

And her green tea? Cloudy and tasting like puffed wheat.

When we finally got the bill, after trying to guess where AJ disappeared to, I realized that only half our food was included on the bill. She had completely forgotten to include any of my sushi. I pointed this out to the sushi chef, and he laughed at it, calling over the other chefs to point at her mistake and join in the laughter.

I was set to leave a 20 dollar bill and walk out by this time. Katie calmed me down and we waited for AJ to return. Her response to the mistake: “I call that the AJ special! Only charging for half the food!”

We quickly, and quietly, paid our bill, vowing to tell every person we know about this atrocious experience. If it was just the food, I would have been willing to brush it all off as growing pains; but the fact our server obviously wasn’t actually listening to us, nor paying attention to her job, is what pissed me off.

And what makes me even sadder is that mallrats and middle America shoppers will probably think this is what sushi is supposed to taste like. Cream cheese is SUPPOSED to be in every other maki or sushi roll! Mango, too! Gah.

RA, you have taken the Oxford Street Café crown. Wear it in proudly.

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12 Responses to RA Sushi Bar Restaurant – Lombard, IL

  1. Pingback: Bacon Salt. It Exists. And It Is Good. « Two Bites in Suburbia

  2. TwobitMe says:

    I’ll give you credit mysterious RA! employees, you got each others’ back, which is nothing but commendable.

    But, our biggest problems, as have been stated COUNTLESS times before is that the food and drinks were mediocre compared to other sushi places.

    As far as AJ’s service goes, I’m sorry to hear she has a hearing impairment, but how that should affect her service in a SERVICE industry, I don’t know. And anyways, what does hearing have to do with leaving 50% of the order off the final check? Yeah.

    On a personal note, how evil and sad YOU sound for wishing injury on a person who you didn’t agree with. That’s some quality trolling right there.

  3. John says:

    I cannot believe how sad and evil you sound. I actually know AJ. The server you tore apart. She had a accident happen to her when she was younger that hurt her hearing to a point where she is near deaf in one ear. MIGHT, just MIGHT be the reason for her repeating things to you, you sorry excuse for a human being.

    Why don’t you drink alot and drive home fast and take chances.

    Hope you sleep well at night!

  4. TwobitMe says:

    Oh Dazey, where were you back in July when I actually cared what people thought of this response?

    I believe I’ve covered everything that needs to be said about this place more than enough. You can love RA all you want, but I’ll continue going to Wild Tuna, Ai, or Matsuya for my sushi needs.

    And I believe I’ve also said I know that dengaku tofu has fish scales on it. But again, why bother reading around the site (https://twobites.wordpress.com/2007/08/10/reader-e-mail/)?

  5. dazey says:

    ok ok…seriously!! i know that this was published along time ago but I’m also a huge fan of RA sushi and love the location in Lombard!! Great food! Fun employees! Amazing drinks!

    Regardless of that..did you EVER think about asking to talk to a manager about your experience or even corporate, i mean if it was really as terrible as you say, or based on one experience were you just hoping to sink the restaurant, which won’t happen i’m sure!! Grow up and do things in the proper fashion!!

    And considering they make all the sushi right in front of you and the sushi chefs were at your disposal, since as you said the restaurant was dead when you arrived, why didn’t you just ask them to make you a couple veggie rolls that were different then offered? Being that you’re a sushi god you should know that sushi chefs are usually happy to make something out of the ordinary, they really are artists like you so colorfully wrote!!

    One server and one less than perfect experience should not make you dispise a place unless you are prone to hatred, which maybe you are!! who knows?

    Oh, and the Dengaku Tofu isn’t vegetarian!! It has fish particles in the tempura sauce, just like every tempura sauce, I would assume a sushi lover like yourself should know that too!! MmMmMmMm…fish!!

  6. M. Suzi Gale says:

    The food was pretty good. However, I do not like their business practices. Servers must give a large percentage of their tips to the Sushi chefs when they are assigned to the Sushi bar. This is unfair. Servers sometimes walk away with less than $20.00 for a 6 hour shift. The company should pay their chefs and not expect the serving staff to do so. I refuse to eat at RA due to this practice.

  7. TwobitMe says:

    Who says I was expecting a vast selection? I just said, I wider selection than the poor showing they had. I can go to Wild Tuna in Naperville, and find at least 6 rolls on the menu that are veggie friendly. 6! And I’m a happy man.

    To say “ALL” of you eat beef is just a vast assumption. I’m from Middle America, and I don’t eat beef. I have several friends who don’t eat beef. So, you’re wrong right there. Not ALL middle americans eat beef. A majority? Maybe. But not all.

    And, didn’t I say we usually give a new place the benefit of the doubt? Are you guys even reading what I wrote? I was slamming the service above all else, because there’s working out kinks, and dealing with such glaring problems in service that the rest of the meal was marred.

  8. leah says:

    Um….Wow! Is all I have to say.
    I agree with Blake on the vegetarian thing. Unless you go to a veggie restaurant don’t expect such a vast selection catering to your choice of diet. Also, all of us mallrats and “middle americans” tend to EAT BEEF so I don’t really expect much of an impact from your insult.
    Like you mentioned initially, maybe the restaurant needs to work out a few kinks with their service and the menu before they become successful like their city counterpart.
    I’m not saying you didn’t have an awful experience but Slamming a new restaurant in its first month from one visit is jumping the gun a little.

  9. Blake says:

    I am a huge RA Sushi fan and I personally think all of you are idiots! I can actually list 10 reasons why this writer is an idiot:

    1. You are a vegetarian. How can you be a fair and balanced food critic.
    2. I am almost positive that hostess didn’t ask you for a reservation when the restaurant was completely empty.
    3. Why would you order a potsticker soup if you were a vegetarian. Since you frequent Japanese restaurants, clearly you should know what a potsticker is.
    4. If you a such and amazing critic of food, why aren’t you a chef?
    5. I am sure that you know exactly what goes in the potsticker soup. Why not just say you don’t like it and send it back? Isn’t that what a nice person would do?
    6. Do you expect that most Japanese restaurants are going to have a WHOLE vegetarian menu. How would they make money. Barely anybody is a vegetarian!
    7. It’s the Shops On Butterfield, not the “Streets of Yorkville.” You shouldn’t publish the wrong information if you want people to truly believe your stories!
    8. “A good sushi chef is like watching an artist with a brush.” Come on, do you really think you are a writer.
    9. I have had the Dengaku Tofu before it is tempura sauce and eel sauce not ginger sauce. Since you are a frequent sushi eater you should clearly know what tempura sauce is. It taste nothing like ginger.

  10. Gemma says:

    Hi you two. I’m glad you made it out for the dinner. We should really do a Chicagoland dinner soon. Maybe in a month or so. . .? any ideas? (By the way, that pretzel bread looks incredible. It is on my to do list. Nice work.)

  11. meaney says:

    Oh my gosh! I didn’t know it there was one in Lombard…well, I definitely will not go to the one in the Gold Coast now too. Lame dude. Servers are supposed to read each and every one of their guests…not just spit out some garbage they learned in training. Sorry.

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