Takashi, a set on Flickr.
Takashi Inoue graduated from the famous Tsuji Cooking Academy in Osaka and wanted to open a restaurant in Japan. But, encountering a lot of red tapes, he set his sight on New York, and so, four years ago, he landed in the city without any knowledge of the culinary world of New York.
He and his business partner Saheem Ali found a space for their “project,” and after a slow three-year gestation, a new carnivorous culinary experience was introduced to New York: TAKASHI. A complete story of how the restaurant began could be found in this NYTimes article.
As for my own dining experience, I could not help but think about being transported back to a more spacious and cleaner (and well designed and decorated) version of a traditional Japanese Yakiniku place.
There are very limited number of tables, and even more limited number of seats at the counter. Reservations are only taken for at least four people, so single diner, arrive early; otherwise, it would be about a 20-minute wait. A note about dining solo: The only disadvantage about solitary dining is that you may not be able to taste a lot of things, because you might be full after a raw appetizer and a hot (do-it-yourself) entrée. In such case, I would suggest what I had tonight, the Horumon-Moriawase, or Chef’s Selection of a number of different cuts of the meat.
The instructive wall decor made the place young and fun. The chalk-like drawing and writing introduce diners to the concept of the restaurant (the do-it-yourself mantra), continued with a glossary of carnivorous terms. It ran along all the entire wall space on the Table side.
Finally, the meal itself.
For starter, I choose Niku-Uni, which consists of chuck flap, topped with sea urchin, over shiso leaf (perilla) and a small, rectangular nori, accompanied by freshly grated wasabi, which you can add to your own taste. A soy sauce is at your disposal, to dip your rolled Niku-Uni (roll-it-yourself, remember?) before consuming it.
The “hot” entrée is Horumon-Moriawase, and tonight’s Chef’s selection consists (each three pieces) of Heart, Liver, First Stomach, Fourth Stomach, and Sweetbread, marinated in Takashi’s special pepper paste. I was then instructed to cook the First and Fourth Stomach plus the Sweetbread for at least 5 minutes (until charred), with turning over every minute. The heart and liver cooked faster to reach a medium-rare state, so eaters beware!
I ended up laying the longer-cooking offals first, and placing the heart and liver later. Once I started eating a piece from the first batch, I commenced to lay the second batch (safe the heart and liver again, which would be placed a short time later). Dipping sauce is provided as an accompaniment.
There is only one dessert, which traditionally in Japan has nothing to do with yakiniku: Home-made Madagascar vanilla softserve ice cream, with an array of toppings (I chose Matcha/green tea syrup). According to the NY Times food critic Sam Sifton, “It is simply a continuation of the restaurant’s cowish, idiosyncratic theme, a Zen riddle to consider as you pay the check.”
One last note: It is not mentioned anywhere in print, but for those speaking Japanese, you would be tickled to find out what the last four digits sound like and mean. Shall I tell you? I think it is better that you find it out yourself; but I must say that it is a very clever, genial wink, and not to mention practical mnemonic device from Takashi-san, and it is by no means accidental.