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Fun, not function, key at sushi class

Four to try

Maki Sake Mondays

» Sunda New Asian, 110 W. Illinois

» 6-7 p.m. last Monday of the month; through Nov. 25

» $25 per person; (312) 644-0500;

Shaw’s Chicago Sushi School

» Shaw’s Crab House, 21 E. Hubbard

» Noon Saturdays, on the fourth Saturday of each month through Oct. 26

» $45 per person or $120 for all three classes; (312) 527-2722;

Sushi and Sake 101

» Sushisamba Rio, 504 N. Wells

» 7-9 p.m. Aug. 13

» $75 per person; (312) 595-2300;

Sushi Made Easy
with Joelen Tan

» Enerspace Chicago, 412 N. Carpenter

» 2-4 p.m. Aug. 3

» $45 per person; register at;

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Updated: August 7, 2013 10:06AM

Making sushi rolls is a little like performing Kenny Rogers on karaoke night. ¶ In both cases, you’ve got to know when to hold ’em, know when to fold, er, roll ’em. ¶ You won’t be hearing any Kenny Rogers at the see-and-be-seen “New Asian” restaurant Sunda, 110 W. Illinois. On Monday nights, though, you can take Sunda’s new “Maki Sake Mondays,” one of a number of sushi classes offered locally for those wanting to try their hand at creating the Japanese favorite that first arrived on the culinary scene in the 8th Century. ¶ At “Maki Sake Mondays,” expect clubby music, cold pours of super premium sake (“It’s ideal for eating sushi with,” server Johnny Arena explained) and the comfortably chatty Sunda Executive Chef Jess DeGuzman leading the way.

“It’s so versatile — do what you want,” DeGuzman told a group on a recent night, seated at a communal table covered in wooden boards, with stacks of seaweed and soy paper. “People are using black rice and brown rice. [Fish] doesn’t have to be raw. Use cocktail shrimp. Mix it up.”

For this veteran sushi eater but novice sushi maker, “Maki Sake Mondays” was pretty much the perfect way to start. The only thing you are responsible for is the assembly. The rice is cooked and seasoned. The cucumbers are sliced to a thin, even perfection. Most importantly, rolling my own sushi with fish already expertly prepped removed any worry I had about food safety.

While it wasn’t that difficult to get started, it wasn’t that easy to make something that looked good. I tried not to overdo it on the fillings and used the bamboo mat, or makisu, to tightly pack in the rice, avocado and shrimp. My shrimp tempura roll tasted great but made grocery store sushi look like edible art.

Mistakes were OK, though, DeGuzman made clear while looking at a classmate’s overstuffed roll, with rice and spicy tuna bulging out both ends.

“I’m going to have to redo this one,” he said.

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