This article started as something very different from a standard restaurant review. My initial plan was to compare and contrast the traditional with the contemporary. Sushi bar with table seating. Deep fried roll with basic nigiri. Our favourite authentic Japanese eatery is Kyoto, and for contemporary Japanese, Takashi is the favorite.
My great plan also happened to perfectly coincide with a visit of one of our friends, whom as chance had it, lived in Japan for many years. We thought he would be able to give a perfectly unbiased opinion and offer a verdict on which he preferred, the traditional and exquisitely executed experience of sushi bar dining at Kyoto, or the modern, upscale experience offered by Takashi. I figured a pair of fresh eyes would shed new light on a couple of our tried and tested favourites.
So what happened to this genius plan? Well, simply put, our guest loved every last bite, refusing to rank either a clear winner based on the food. Back to square one then. So, as a back up plan, we instead decided to run the rule over Takashi as a stand alone review. Sure Takashi is well established and popular, but we have never put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard) about the place, so here goes.
Takashi is an enigma to me, it does so many things right, yet other aspects of dining there have proven annoying. Case in point, they don’t take reservations. Maybe someone in the industry can explain to me why some places operate with this policy? Surely taking reservations streamlines an operation. At Takashi, you turn up and you takes your chances. If a table isn’t available (and after 7 p.m. the place is rocking) you can add your name to a list and wait.
On our recent visit, Wendi turned up first and asked for a table for four. Thankfully several tables were free, but rather than being instantly seated, the hostess curiously asked if Wendi had “spoken with her other guests recently” as if doubting that the rest of us were really going to show up. Although it may not have been the hostess’s intent, Wen did note that as an initial contact, this line of questioning may cause a guest to feel somewhat less than comfortable and relaxed. Suffices to say, myself and our other guests did arrive shortly thereafter, completing the group.
For those not familiar with Takashi, the interior is in sharp modern contrast to other more traditional Japanese restaurants. In the past, I found the space somewhat utilitarian, perhaps even bleak in its starkness. It seems the tone has softened over the months and years. The centerpiece of decorations is a giant metal fish suspended over the sushi bar. Japanese paper lanterns swarm over the table seating, adding a much-needed warmth.
Given the popularity of the place, patrons waiting for tables spill out from the tiny waiting area into the dining room, drinks in hand. It can get crowded and noisy very quickly, if you like a quiet romantic meal, this might not be your ideal venue. Yet another point of consternation and surely solved by a reservation system.
You may also want to reconsider Takashi if you are in any kind of hurry. It seems to me that there are always too few servers at Takashi, especially since the majority of tables order their food in several “rounds” as we did. This type of ordering is perfectly suited to Takashi menu: small plates and sushi. This naturally puts more strain on the service staff, and at times that strain shows.
Takashi doesn’t offer a full bar, but does offer a small selection of wine, beer and a not-too-shabby sake list. Our visiting friend stumbled across a bottle from his former home prefecture of Akita, so we went with a bottle of the Ama No To aka “Heavens Door” ($52.00). A clear, slightly dry fruity sake, which was served chilled:
Takashi offers a number of nightly specials, which do seem to change routinely. As such, it’s always with some eagerness that we look forward to seeing what is on offer. Annoyingly, one of the two special boards is located outside the restaurant and the inside board is hidden from view of at least half of the dining floor. Our waiter did his best to reel through the list, but the sheer size coupled with the noise levels can make it all hard to take in. Here’s a suggestion, what about a menu insert listing the specials each night, or maybe more boards placed throughout the space?
On this night, we ordered a number of specials, the first of which was the Salmon Gyoza ($8.50):
This instantly stood out for Wendi. She isn’t normally a huge pork fan, and as a result not usually a gyoza eater. This special changed that. Not exactly earth shattering in taste terms, it would taste like you imagine. A perfectly executed gyoza dumpling stuffed with salmon. It was however a nice example of the modern creativity at work at Takashi. These didn’t last long, and I’m sure we would all order them again.
The Ramon’s Roll ($8.50) is a nice fusion of local and the traditional ingredients:
A simple tuna and avocado roll is beefed up with cilantro and spicy sauce. The outside is then sprinkled with a smattering of thinly sliced serrano peppers. This roll is seriously hot and not for the faint of heart. I’m fan of spice and heat (a big Siracha fan!) and managed to burn my tongue for several minutes with my carelessness.
Another special that interested me was the Tempura Shishito Peppers ($6.00):
Deep fried Shishito peppers seemed like heaven to me, and indeed they were. They were also served with a little green tea flavoured salt and soy. A dab of soy and then salt, worked well with the bitterness of the mild peppers. I could snack on these all night long.
The T&T roll is a perfect example of Takashi’s modern twist ($10.50):
The T&T comprises yellow tail, albacore, salmon and green onion. The roll is then deep fried and served with “hotter than hell dipping sauce”. The roll is one of our favourites in town. The only way I can explain the taste is that it reminds me of fish and chips back in England. All very vague I know, but simply put, its a taste sensation.
The accompanying sauce is indeed mighty hot, essentially a blend of peppers. A simple drop on the end of a chopstick is enough to set the tongue alight. Dunking the roll directly into the sauce is for the very brave. On this evening, the roll was sadly a little cold upon arriving at the table, not warm and crisp as it has been in the past when served fresh from the deep fryer. I wouldn’t want to apportion the blame to any one staff member. It was just one those occurrences that highlights the aforementioned strain on the service staff.
Another special of the night was the Snow White Roll ($8.95):
A roll using mint inside and coconut shavings on the outside had us all intrigued. I suppose mint and coconut come together in Thai food, but it’s not a combination I have seen in sushi before. I’m afraid a mix of poor notes and Sake generally combined to make me forget what fish was involved in the roll. The point however, was that the idea and execution was first rate and we all found the roll to be fantastic.
Yet another special was the Tai sashimi with tomatillo salsa ($15.00):
A touch on the pricey side perhaps, but another mix-up of regional ingredients with the more traditional Japanese. The tomatillo salsa added an enjoyable citrusy bite to the sweet and mild Tai.
The Buddha Roll ($6.00) is one of Takashi’s three vegetarian rolls:
It includes portabello mushrooms, green beans and sweet potatoes. The whole shebang is then deep fried and topped with a sweet sauce and sesame seeds. All those veggies lend a satisfying crunch to each mouthful. If the raw fishes aren’t your thing, then you could do far worse than give this roll a go. Even as a self confessed carnivore, I found the roll surprisingly tasty. Heck, I guess pretty much anything deep fried is a winner!
We also tried an order of the Nasu ($6.00):
Grilled eggplant is topped with some chopped tomato and cucumber, and rounded out with a miso-based sauce. Another enjoyable menu item, especially if you are a fan of eggplant.
If all of the above sounds a little too exotic, Takashi also offers more traditional Japanese fare. The Chicken Yakitori ($8.50) is one example:
I’d wager that this skewered and grilled chicken in a Teriyaki sauce would be great even for the most picky of eaters. Another more ‘standard’ item was the fried Calamari ($8.50):
Another expertly executed plate. Light, crunchy batter and not-in-the-slightest chewy squid. A wasabi aioli was also served up on the side. Again delicious, and didn’t last long before being gobbled up. Takashi is an equally accessible restaurant for both the seasoned expert or the less adventurous diner.
Takashi provides really excellent and often innovative food. It’s just a shame about the many little niggles in the organization of the operation. This really could be one of my favourite SLC restaurants if they tried. A case of so close, yet so far.
I don’t see these issues being worked out anytime soon either, the place is regularly swamped from my experience. I’m sure the business is roaringly profitable, so I doubt there is the impetus for change. I will continue to come back over the months and years, but not with the regularity the food deserves.
Come and discuss this review with us, on our foodie forum here.
18 W Market St
Salt Lake City, UT 84101
Hi, I’m Stuart, nice to meet you! I’m the founder, writer and wrangler at Gastronomic SLC; I’m also a former restaurant critic of more than five years, working for the Salt Lake Tribune. I’ve worked extensively with multiple local publications from Visit Salt Lake to Salt Lake Magazine, not least helped to consult on national TV shows.
I’m a multiple-award winning journalist and have covered the Utah dining scene for the better part of fifteen years. I’m largely fueled by a critical obsession with rice, alliteration and the use of big words I don’t understand. What they’re saying about me: “Not inaccurate”, “I thought he was older”, “I don’t share his feelings”. Want to know more? This is why I am the way I am.
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13 thoughts on “Takashi restaurant review”
For the curious: the fish in the Snow White roll is white salmon.
Thanks Monica! My excuse really is the Sake 🙂
Maybe I was there the same night because I also had the tai with tomatillo sauce and the snow white roll…both excellent I thought.
Reviewing a sushi restaurant like Takashi and not focusing on sashimi and nigiri is beyond me. No escolar, no abalone, no o’toro, no traditional maki, no anago, no tai, no uni, no giant orange clam… When you’re visiting a restaurant that’s fronted by a sushi chef of Takashi’s caliber, why would you not order “chef’s choice” (omakase). This is where Takashi shines. Understanding the knife skills, the understanding of pairing the subtle flavors of various sashimi and sake, taking care to note proper seasoning of rice and texture of the nigiri within your mouth. etc..
Go to Osaka, go to Tokyo, go to any of the better sushi-ya and order traditional nigiri and sashimi, or order an omakase set, THEN come back and order the same at Takashi, and realize what a gem we have in our city.
John P, thanks for your input. I will confess I don’t often order sashimi or nigiri, indeed some of the items you list, I simply don’t care for at all.
The original idea of the article was to contrast the modern approach to Japanese cuisine of Takashi with the more traditional of Kyoto.
I think we can all agree Takashi is a great restaurant, with a very broad menu.
I understand your approach, but perhaps you are missing out on something wonderful.
I appreciate your point as well John. I guess there are many ways to enjoy Takashi. We are both just oming at it from different angles.
And hey, if you want to get that point across to more people, I always accept (appropriate) guest reviews! 🙂
I like Kyoto for sashimi and nigiri. We tried Takashi once (after rave reviews from friends) and were impressed, mostly by the decor and complex rolls (fyi all friends raved about the rolls). I agree with John that its usually best to try a little of everything off a menu but I just get overwhelmed at sampling a broader menu at a place like Takashi. Therefore, when I go to Takashi I order the rolls too because with the elaborate decor, complex sauces, and bustling environment, I have a hard time focusing on the clean beauty of the taste of the fish. What I can intensely devour, however, are the glamorous rolls. At Kyoto, I am not distracted and therefore order more simply. Therefore I raise the argument of atmosphere. I always enjoy places the best when they pick a theme and run with it. Kyoto certainly runs with the traditional theme, and in my opinion, Takashi runs with the elaborate theme. Maybe this is just me but I have to feel balanced in a restaurant. Therefore the theme, mood, vibe, or however you want to describe the environment, always drives my ordering. Maybe this is where Stu is coming from. I’m sure the sashimi at Takashi is excellent, but I’d feel more at balance savoring it in the kitchen with the sushi chef after the restaurant had closed. Kyoto successfully puts my mind at peace and focus and enjoy the delicate flavors of fresh, clean, and masterfully cut piece of raw fish. Any comments are welcome.
P.S. The downtown location of Takashi vs the small neighborhood joint (with excellent landscaping) of Kyoto certainly contributes to their respective vibes too, at least in my opinion.
Muncher: That is a large part of it yes.
My favourite of the two is actually Kyoto, and when I am there I am far more prone to ordering sashimi and nigiri. In fact you are out of luck at Kyoto if you want fancy schmancy rolls.
When at Takashi I am overtaken (for want of a better phrase) by the energy and verve of the ambiance.
One day I will try sitting up at the sushi bar (which has always been packed when I have been) and giving their simpler stuff a whirl.
I agree Stu, I prefer Kyoto over Takashi too. It’s probably best that my home address is not listed as otherwise I’m sure my house would be egged or toilet papered tonight, but I think Kyoto just pulls off the whole ball of wax. I’m not trying to be critical of Takashi, as I think they do a fabulous job and obviously have a strong fan base, but I just feel the need to raise the point of atmosphere and location. This is, in my opinion, too commonly overlooked in Salt Lake. Neighborhood joints simply rock and elaborately decorated restaurants, although beautiful, are often distracting. There, I’ve said my peace, now, Takashi fans, please don’t tar and feather me! I still love to eat there, I just can’t muster myself to say sashimi or nigiri to the waiter. I’m always swayed toward the complex and exotic sounding rolls. (And I’m certainly not opposed to downtown restaurants. Building up our downtown with more great restaurants, bars, clubs, and cultural events is always a good thing!) Whew!
Thanks, I am a local that love Takashi, I have brought every vendor that comes to town to wine and dine me to Takashi, but honestly after having to scrunch 6 people to a 4 top after being told that they could not seat us all if we weren’t there (staggered in from air flights) then say we might kick you out being in the fire lane and then when the table next to ours opened and asked if we could take it, and got a no, and said but we are in the fire lane, oh there are too many in line. I say spending get this $634. tonight, I may have my March 17th party go to Kyoto after reading all of this. I personally hope the owner reads this an either makes concessions to groups that drop this kind of money or see it go to competitors. I am not disgruntled I just think they have gotten to big for the folks who put them there. I have never eaten at Kyoto’s maybe I will, another vendor 3/17.
My wife and I eat often at Takashi. We have followed Takashi Gibo since he was serving sushi at Shogun,(years ago). The saba shashimi is as good as any I’ve ever had anywhere. We order it every time we’re there. Also if you haven’t tried the live scallops (shashimi) you are missing a real treat. I also love the mussel shooters with quail eqq, and the uni with quail egg.
As you may gather from this comment, I’m not a big nigiri fan, I prefer shashimi. The shashimi is superb at Takashi’s. It you don’t take advantage of the way in which this sushi is served you are missing something special.