18 W. Market St., Salt Lake City ; 801-519-9595
Incredible attention to detail in the kitchen, making this one of the best places for sushi -- if you don't mind long waits and noise.
Cuisine: Sushi, Japanese
Hours: M-F, 11:30 a.m.-2 p.m., M-Th, 5:30-10 p.m.; F-S, 5:30-11 p.m.
Liquor: Full Service
Corkage: $ 8
Reservations: For large parties only
Recommended Dishes: High-quality fish in sashimi, nigiri, rolls, etc.; shrimp tempura; shishito peppers.
October 2, 2008
Eating at this Japanese gem is well worth the noise
By Lesli J. Neilson
People often ask, "What's your favorite place for sushi?"
Before I can respond, they say, "We like Takashi."
In the past, Takashi has not been my number one choice -- or even two. There is almost always a wait, parking is often difficult and the place is noisy.
After a recent dining experience, which included spectacular food and impressive surroundings, Takashi has moved to the top of my list. The only thing that detracted from the meal were a few missteps in service.
On that evening, the parking came easy and two seats at the sushi bar came quickly.
The décor at the four-year-old restaurant is sleek. White paper lanterns of all sizes hang over butcher paper-topped tables in the industrial space. A gigantic metallic fish, suspended from the ceiling smack-dab in front of the sushi bar, makes a big impression.
Though we weren't seated near chef-owner Takashi Gobi, I had a good feeling about our sushi chef. He was precise and had a seriousness about him that matched Takashi-san's.
The high-quality fish is neither too cold nor too warm; sushi rice is cooked and seasoned just right. Trust your sushi chef and ask for recommendations. There also is a specials board of innovative creations. That is where my dining partner and I discovered tempura-fried shishito peppers ($5 each). We took a cue from a neighbor and got these vibrant green Japanese chilies -- that have just a hint of heat -- with tuna tartare (4 for $20). The textures were at once crunchy and creamy, grassy and meaty.
Little embellishments also made big impressions. A simple appetizer of shatteringly crispy shrimp and vegetable tempura ($9.50) shares the plate with dashi dipping sauce and housemade matcha tea powder-infused kosher salt that begs to be licked off of the plate.
In the sashimi combinations, Pacific mackerel, cured in-house, accompanies maguro bincho (seared albacore), squid and salmon (10-piece, $13.95; 15-piece, $21.50); a seaweed and daikon radish salad sings with baby smoked squids ($5.50); and omega-3-rich sablefish ($5.95) gets a hint of char by a cooking torch prior to serving.
The sablefish, also known as black cod, is a perfect complement to the dry unfiltered sake in a flight of three rice wines ($6.50). In addition to the extensive sake list, there are a variety of beers and wines that pair with Takashi's non-fish entrees such as shiitake lamb shank ($23.50) and "ridiculously tender" flank steak ($18.50).
I only wish that precision and professionalism found in the food and chef skills carried over to some members of the waitstaff. Servers chewed gum, waited long stretches to pick up empty plates and sporadically filled water glasses.
Locals would be wise to stay away from Takashi when conventions such as Outdoor Retailers are in town. But I am now willing to take a gamble on parking and endure the wait and loud acoustics for what I think is the best place for sushi in Salt Lake City.
Tribune's rating system
1 star Good
2 stars Very good
3 stars Excellent
4 stars Extraordinary
$ Entree under $10
$$$$ Above $25
1 bell Quiet (under 65 decibles)
2 bells Can talk easily (65-70)
3 bells Talking somewhat difficult (70-75)
4 bells Raised voices (75-80)
A bomb Too noisy for normal conversation (80+)
The Tribune covers the cost of all meals at reviewed restaurants. Star ratings are based on a minimum of two visits. Ratings are updated continually based on at least one revisit. There is no connection between reviews and advertising.
August 13, 2004
Superb sushi, splendid décor are a hard-to-top team at Takashi
By Nancy Hobbs
The introduction of a new Japanese/sushi restaurant always seems a good excuse to call our favorite sushi-loving friends and plan an evening out. Word-of-mouth sent us recently into the heart of downtown to Takashi, which opened almost three months ago on Market Street, just west of Main. The restaurant is a new venture for Takashi Gibo, head sushi chef for the last dozen years at the nearby Shogun restaurant, and his wife, Tamara. The couple acquired the site of the former Au Bon Appetit soon after it closed last spring, and wasting no time, gutted and turned it into a modern, vibrant hotspot with walls of sage, yellow and orange, and a high ceiling that echoes rather than mutes the sound of people having a good time.
The long sushi bar is where attention is naturally focused, with stools (rarely empty) and a line of uniformed sushi chefs busily creating works of edible art. But the eyes of diners sitting in the main dining room are also drawn above the sushi bar, to the giant mesh fish glistening with colored lights, reminiscent of the animal's iridescent flesh as it skims though sunlit water.
It's a magnificent piece of artwork, and I wasn't too surprised to learn that its creator is none other than Salt Lake City stained glass master Willy Littig. It has earned almost as much attention as the food, with customers admiring and asking about it almost daily, joked manager Wendi Lund.
But what sushi connoisseurs are really raving about at the new restaurant is the variety of specialty fish that Takashi is shipping in for diners. On any given night, Lund said the restaurant is serving such items as black or blue marlin, sea trout, monkfish paté and tiny, live crab called sawagani.
If you are lucky enough to snag a seat at the sushi bar in front of Takashi, he will customize specialty sushi rolls, depending on what is available that day, Lund said. Although we didn't have that opportunity -- he apparently has quite a following waiting for those seats, including several adolescent epicures -- it is something to vie for in the future.
The dining-room tables, whether ordering sushi or not, are no slouch seats, either. Our service both nights was superior, in spite of the fact that the miso soup included with one meal never arrived on the second occasion. Our server's attention to every other detail overshadowed that slip.
We ordered several specialty rolls and nigiri sushi, which is simply fish -- generally raw -- sliced and served on a thumb-size bite of sticky rice. From the delicious Rainbow Roll, which was spicy crab salad wrapped with six kinds of fish, including tuna, salmon, shrimp and mackerel, to the simple unagi nigiri, everything was visually enticing, as well as fresh and flavorful.
Artful presentation is evident in all of Takashi's offerings, starting with the Azekura appetizer, an impressive tower of tempura-fried green beans, portobello mushroom and thin slices of seared beef, all complemented with a tasty ponzu sauce for dipping.
I especially liked the portobellos, and on a second visit ordered the tempura vegetables in hopes that, among other treats, I would find more mushrooms in the mix. That resulted in my only disappointment at Takashi. The plate of tempura vegetables seemed ordinary and frugal compared to everything else I tried; the plate was a small mix of mostly onions and sweet potatoes -- good, but not what I anticipated.
The fried tofu, one of several selections on the "small plates" menu with prices ranging from $4 to $10, was excellent, with a nice crisp exterior. Also recommended by our server were the homemade gyoza, which were savory little pockets of flavor, and incredibly tender pork ribs with a sweet ginger-soy sauce.
There is much more to Takashi than sushi and potstickers, however. The "kitchen" menu offers grilled chicken and fish, more tempura and a terrific grilled flank steak, sliced thin so each bite melts in your mouth. Accompanying it is a delightful, basil-infused sauce that was good with both the meat and tempura-fried vegetables.
Flash-frying is a technique Takashi uses to make crunchy "chips" from the skeleton of aji, or Spanish mackerel, and it was likewise the method employed for the Utah trout special we ordered. It arrived as a whole fish, set on its belly, looking as though it were molded in a light coat of tempura. It had been filleted, making it simple to eat, even with chopsticks, and its moist meat was as good as any Utah trout I've tasted.
Sake drinkers will delight in the selection at Takashi, where several heretofore unavailable rice wines have been special ordered through the state's liquor agency. Whether you prefer sake heated or cold, there are several varieties, and servers seem knowledgeable about which to recommend. There also is a nice variety of Japanese beers, as well as some domestic brews.
Japanese cuisine at Takashi can be as adventurous as you like, ranging from options some people have probably never tried -- and might not want to -- to the safe, but delicious, traditional favorites.