By MYSTERY DINER - comp:000049183ad5:000000023d:5016 new
The sushi and sashimi combo lunch special includes a chef's choice of tasty items at WOOW Japanese Restaurant in La Grange. (Suburban Life Media photo)

At WOOW Japanese Restaurant in La Grange, the food is only half the experience. Located downtown, WOOW looks inconspicuous enough from the outside. A single overhead sign and dark windows do little to hint at what awaits beyond the restaurant's doors.

Once inside, I was greeted by a friendly hostess, and, since it was lunchtime and I was alone, was asked if I preferred a seat at the bar or a table.

Personally, I get a kick out of watching my food be prepared, so I opted for one of the seats at the bar, behind which drinks are shaken and stirred and sushi is prepared.

As I moved through the dining room, I couldn't help but take in the visual experience around me. The walls are covered in animal prints – zebra and leopard mostly. Bright white chairs stand out next to black booths, while blue and red light bathes the space. In almost any direction, eyes are drawn to strands of twinkling lights.

The result leaves more of an impression of a lounge. But WOOW is definitely a restaurant – and has the menu to prove it.

The menu is largely dominated by sushi in the broad sense of the term, but more specifically split between rolls, sushi and sashimi. Sushi generally refers to seafood served rolled with rice and seaweed paper or seafood served on a bed of vinegared rice. Sashimi is just the fresh, uncooked seafood.

To start, I ordered crab rangoon, perfectly crispy and filled with a good balance of cream cheese and crabmeat. I also ordered a plate of chicken fried rice. For those who are not ready to dive into the raw fish that largely makes up a sushi menu, there are plenty of offerings, ranging from fried rice to pad Thai and orange chicken. The fried rice was tasty, light and filled with fresh tasting ingredients.

I would wholeheartedly recommend venturing into the sushi menu, though. WOOW specializes in it, and my server was happy to help guide me and answer questions. Wanting to experience a range of offerings, I opted for the sushi and sashimi combo lunch special, which offered a chef's choice of items and came with a California roll (a no-seafood, avocado-filled offering).

The sashimi pieces were fresh and very flavorful. The California roll was good, too, but I was hooked by the beautiful cuts of red and white fish.

Overall, WOOW succeeds as a spot for sushi lovers, and the atmosphere inside can certainly keep a conversation going at the table. My water glass was never low, and the service was attentive without being intrusive. With a range of options for diners of all tastes, and an affordable price-point, it's definitely the kind of place where everyone can find something to their liking.

The ambiance and lighting would make WOOW a great spot for a date or a night on the town with visiting friends.

The Mystery Diner is a newsroom employee at Suburban Life Media. The diner's identity is not revealed to the restaurant staff before or during the meal. Only positive dining experiences will result in published reviews.

(To view the Mystery Diner's photos taken at WOOW, go to; visit its website at