Last Wednesday night I went to Takashi for the first time. How I could have missed this experience in Salt Lake City is just crazy! Takashi is on Market Street in the center of downtown and the old brick building has been refashioned with a beautiful Oriental façade. Even from the sidewalk and on a weeknight, you can feel the excitement of happy people, the atmosphere of fun and anticipation. I knew right away I was in for joyful ride.
Timid at first, I let several others be seated before me while I checked out the scene before me as I decided where to sit. A nice-looking maître d’ with a shaved head asked if I was an adventurous eater, and even though it’s not always the case, I said yes. By then, the host had been notified that I was with QSaltLake and I was seated at the sushi bar directly in front of Tommy, the head sushi chef — a spot I had already decided was the best place in the house.
I sat between two out-of-towners who were busily talking to the sushi makers and asking, “Can you do this?” and “Can you do that?” I was blown away. Takashi is a do-it-yourself sushi heaven.
The entryway at Takashi divides two dining rooms on either side and in the back there is a long sushi bar with about two dozen stools. The place was packed and for me, it was such a new experience I must have been grinning from ear to ear. The two guys on either side of me began telling me of how they always come to Takashi when they are in Salt Lake on business. Just at that moment, a cook appeared from the back, and I saw Tommy, the man to my left, deftly prepare a bed of rice and seaweed right in front of me. The cook handed Tommy a freshly deep-fried, spicy crab which was quickly wound into a stunning California roll. The roll was cut into about eight pieces and placed in front of the guy on my left. “Wow,” he said, “you need to try some of this”— and I did!
I love California rolls because they are so safe. You can even have California rolls made out of avocado and cream cheese. But a spicy soft-shelled crab? I hadn’t imagined it. In front of each setting at the bar there are all the necessary condiments, which you just grab with your fingers. I made a small pool of wasabi mixed with soy sauce on my plate and dipped the crab roll into it before popping the whole thing in my mouth. I was not disappointed. The fellow on my right was fascinated that I was a culinary writer and he too began sharing his food with me. This went on for quite some time before I chose any food on my own.
By this time, Tamara, owner and wife of Chef Takashi, had joined me. She brought a beautiful sautéed bouquet of wild mushrooms, (I can’t imagine how much they cost), served with a buckwheat crepe. I thought for a moment I was in a French restaurant because in Normandy and Brittany they also make buckwheat crepes. The mushrooms were sautéed in a tiny bit of soy and sake and there was a dollop of crème fraiche, so I rolled it all up into a sort of burrito. I did think the taste of the sake was a bit too strong at first, but after I mixed in the crème I liked it a lot more. The mushrooms alone had the most succulent and buttery flavor. At any rate this dish was so stunning, unusual and driven by quality. Simply put, I was amazed.
Tamara really spoiled me, and Rod, my companion on the right shared tastes of his two different sakes with me. I chose a glass of Pinot Gris. I’m not a huge sake fan. I really prefer a nice, crisp white wine with Asian food; Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc and Muscadet from the Loire Valley are my favorites. Tamara and Takashi have an excellent list of both wines and sakes and they special order many of their beverages so you can only get them at Takashi.
I won’t bore you with all the details, but here is a list of the many ingredients I saw and tasted at Takashi: Quail egg yolks, many types of caviar, tomatillo, dicon, horse radish, fresh red beets shredded into fine threads, countless fish including every part of the fish, crab and I could go on and on.
Tamara is a self-motivated expert on mushrooms and is one of those naturists who travel far and wide to find the shy fungus. She uses a specific mushroom to make an infusion which she then adds to her delicious pots-de-crème, aka panne cotte. This awesome desert although made from a mushroom, tastes like maple — who knew? The tiny, yet bursting-with-flavor gelatin, flanked by a few berries and two slices of Chardonnay poached pears was do die for. After receiving desert, many other customers at the bar also wanted one.
I love going to places where I am surprised with creativity, new ideas, spectacular and expensive ingredients and nice company. The artistic and detail-oriented plating may be the best in Utah. I am probably behind the times here but if Takashi is a secret to you as it was for me, don’t waste any more time. Go! I give Takashi a rating of 93.