Tuesday, June 14, 2005

takara at lunchtime

last weekend my moms came into town to stock up on her supply of japanese grocery items and, as always, we had lunch in japantown. for years, strictly out of habit we'd grab a quick bite at osakaya in the kintetsu mall's western wing. really mediocre. sub-mediocre actually. i don't recommend it. then someone from chowhound turned us onto kansai, which is now our favorite lunchtime spot. great food. great service. sadly however they were fully booked with some private event on that day. "hmmm", i thought to myself, "i've been meaning to try takara. maybe the fates are telling me that today is the day". at about 1:00 pm on a saturday afternoon we headed over to the eastern wing of the mall.

fist off, it was packed with lots of japanese. we waited for about five minutes for a table and i took this to be a good sign.

the lunch menu was quite extensive with a variety of confusing lunch specials options. between the three of us we ordered the "lunch box" (5.95, i think), the lunch combination with sashimi and tempura (12.95, or something like that), and the sansai soba (7.50 or so).

the lunch box was a great deal. for that day it consisted of chicken teriyaki, california roll and tempura. it came with miso soup and rice. for the price it was a good value but nothing stood out as being much above average except the tempura. the chicken came covered in a very runny soupy teriyaki sauce and the other items were, well, average.

the lunch combination was considerably smaller than the lunch box. again, it came with rice, soup and some tsukemono (really just lightly salted and wilted cabbage). the sashimi was good and fresh but the portion was smaller than usual. the tempura was pretty good - vegetables thinly sliced and well cooked (not crunchy, as sometimes happens), with a light, delicate and lacey batter that just clung to the sliced vegetables. it consisted of two pieces of shrimp and four vegetables (pumpkin, carrot, eggplant and green bean). sadly the rice that accompanied all the dishes was mushy. the rice is, for me, a true measure of the attention a japanese kitchen is putting into it's food. my mom liked her order okay but her comment was that kansai was way better.

i went with the sansai soba, being a real noodle soup freak. on the plus side there was a very generous amount of sansai vegetables in the soup and the noodles were not overcooked. on the minus, well, the broth was black. moms called it tokyo style, which i guess is saltier than kansai style, but it was just way too salty, even for me, and i've been known to eat salt straight, i kid you not. it would've been more appropriate for dipping. definitely not for drinking. it made me sad.

i'm a little baffled since i've heard such good things about takara. granted the positive reviews have been for dinnertime dining experiences, but should a restaurant really be so different between lunch and dinner? considering the mediocre food and the brusque service (didn't i mention the service was brusque) i don't think i'll be returning to takara again. at least not for lunch. maybe i'll check it out at dinner and see if it improves. if you want a reliable lunch in japantown, check out kansai. review to come.

takara restaurant
22 peace plaza, suite 202
(eastern building of kintetsu mall, 2nd floor)
san francisco, ca
415 921 2000


Blogger cookiecrumb said...

Hi! Nice blogs. I'm visiting via a reference from Becks & Posh...
Just wondering if you've eaten the wafu cuisine at On The Bridge in Japantown. Funny-yummy.

1:22 PM  
Blogger rae said...

hi cookiecrumb,
thanks for stopping by and saying hi. haven't been to on the bridge yet but have heard a lot about it. sounds like the kinda food my mom used to dish up at home. maybe i'll review that place next...come by any time with recommendations, i'm always looking for new places to eat.

3:20 PM  
Blogger Jennifer Maiser said...

I am in the same boat as you re Takara - don't love it. But I have noticed that most of the people who really rave about it are talking about the sushi bar at night -- I have eaten in the main dining room at night, but still am kind of "eh" about it. Now, dinner at Maki or Kiss is something I can get excited about.

Still interested in sitting at the sushi bar at Takara to see what all the fuss is about.

Curious to hear about kansai -- I can't even picture where it is!


3:53 PM  
Blogger Sam said...

I just note your Takara post.
Its funny - because the other week i had the day off work so I went to meet a couple of friends for lunch. Ususally I dont eat my beloved sushi much because my Fred doesn't eat fish at all. But my friends LOVE Takara so I met them there. Maybe its just the lunch specials, but it didn't blow me away either, not like I was expecting it to, anyway.

3:05 PM  
Blogger rae said...

i also had really high hopes for this place. however, the chowhounds say that it's all about sitting at the sushi counter so who know?

8:19 PM  

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