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Tokio Pub dishes out appetizer-size Asian delights to enjoy with drinks

Tokio Pub’s barbecue pork belly nachos have housemade chips are served with guacamole sour cream. | Richard A. Chapman~Sun-Times Photos

Tokio Pub’s barbecue pork belly nachos have housemade chips and are served with guacamole and sour cream. | Richard A. Chapman~Sun-Times Photos

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1900 E. Higgins Rd.,
Schaumburg; (847) 278-5181;

Hours: Open for lunch and dinner at 11:30 a.m. Monday-Saturday and for dinner at
5 p.m. Sunday.

Prices: Tapas-style plates, $2-$9; some combinations, $10-$18.

Try: Barbecue pork belly nachos; crispy rice sushi with shrimp, crab and lobster; chicken meatballs, chocolate beignets.

Tips: No reservations accepted. Daily specials. Seasonal patio. Available for private and semi-private parties.

In a bite: Tokio Pub offers refuge for the after-work crowd looking to unwind with a drink or two complemented by a diverse menu of tasty nibbles.

KEY: ★★★★ Extraordinary; ★★★ Excellent; ★★ Very Good; ★ Good; Zero stars: Poor

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Updated: November 22, 2011 11:14AM

Izakayas, common in Japan, are less familiar in our vocabulary. But the premise behind the term is hardly foreign: a casual drinking establishment that serves a selection of sake, beer, wine and cocktails along with a variety of appetizer-size small plates.

Tokio Pub in Schaumburg, a good example of the genre, opened in May as a new concept by the restaurant group Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises. It has its own entrance in the same building that houses Shaw’s Crab House in the Streets of Woodfield and occupies space that previously functioned as a room for private banquets.

The airy, high-ceilinged rectangular room seats about 60 at tables, banquettes and the bar; outside, an adjoining seasonal patio partly screened by a collection of potted palms, accommodates additional guests. A lively contemporary soundtrack of recorded music and attractive minimalist decor, including lighting fixtures cleverly designed out of old electric fans, add flair.

Tokio’s menu is compact but diverse. Shareable items range from $2-$9, while some three- to five-piece combination dishes go for $10-$18. But be mindful: these tapas-style delights can quickly add up to $40 for a party of two, excluding drinks.

From the open-flame robata grill, we tried chicken meatballs, a flavorful course infused with fresh ginger, onion, herbs and soy-based yakitori sauce. This paired nicely with an order of Asian chopped salad.

Rich and satisfying barbecue pork belly nachos, accompanied by guacamole and sour cream, disappeared quickly and tasted like more. So did the crispy rice bites we tried starring shrimp, crab and lobster sushi — all-around perfect finger food.

Among other options were tuna tartare with corn chips, shrimp ceviche, crispy calamari in a cilantro-lime vinaigrette and sweet baby back ribs in Asian barbecue sauce.

Five tacos — angry chicken, braised pork, crispy shrimp, grilled steak and crispy fish — could be ordered in combinations of three or five. They are served with homemade tortillas.

Our server recommended a bag of fresh-baked bite-size beignets, and she knew what she was talking about. The tiny swoon-inducing sugar-coated fritters came filled with an intense dark chocolate.

If that wasn’t enough, we also homed in on a noteworthy trio of lemongrass, orange and ginger creme brulees.

While Tokio’s tidy bar will serve your favorite wine and cocktails, it also offers yuzu margaritas, sake sangria, passion punch and ginger mojitos by the glass or pitcher, as well as specialty martinis and sake. Kegs dispense Sapporo and Kirin Ichiban beers from Japan, while microbrews are available by the can.

Thomas Witom is a local free-lance writer.

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