There are plenty of sushi bars around the region, but most have their fish delivered, already portioned.

But inside one East Pilsen supermarket, there’s a tiny counter where they bring in whole fish every week, and break it down themselves.

312 Fish Market is a cozy sushi counter tucked away on the second floor of the sprawling 88 Marketplace, which houses a number of restaurants and food shops, just west of Chinatown. Walk past the groceries and just to the right of the no frills dining court to see the chefs unpack enormous hamachi and kanpachi. There’s bright orange kinmedai nestled next to horse mackerel and smaller flying fish.

“We get them from Toyosu Market in Japan twice a week. We also get some fish from Hawaii, also get it from the Atlantic,” said Joe Fung, the Sushi Chef at 312 Fish Market.

There’s scaling. Then butchering, using precise knife cuts; lots of trimming. Then meticulously pulling the pin bones out. The salmon flesh is a gorgeous deep orange, highlighted with parallel lines of fat.

Fung removes the silver skin of his mackerel with a chopstick. And within minutes, he’s sliced it and presented it in a flamboyant display including the carcass it just came from.

Meanwhile, the rice has to be made. Right after it’s cooked, it’s seasoned.

“Mostly it’s vinegar, salt, sugar. We use a grain vinegar instead of a rice vinegar. It’s more acidic, so you have to drop the acidity levels. I add in yuzu as well,” said Fung.

The cook then cools the rice by agitating it and even using a small fan.

“You want it kind of like pasta, al dente; the kind of texture when you bite into it, you can still have that little bit of bounce,” he said.

Back at the counter, some fish gets torched, while others are assembled raw. First, some fresh wasabi root is grated; a finger’s worth is added to the inside, then the rice is hand-formed and placed onto it for some classic nigiri.

They also make maki rolls with imported nori, or seaweed sheets. When eating the nigiri, Fung stresses the importance of the rice.

“You wanna feel that grain; you want to taste that grain. You want that texture,” he said.

Therefore, he recommends lightly dragging it through soy sauce – fish side down.

“I think the best way is with your hands. You don’t want any of the soy to soak into that rice,” he said.

The dining room inside the restaurant is tiny, but they have more tables out in the common area, next to the grocery store. It’s certainly one of the most unique places to eat sushi in town.

Here’s where you can go:

312 Fish Market

2105 S Jefferson St, Chicago, IL 60616