****Taki appears to be out of business as of 1/1/11**************
I don’t think I have ever mentioned this, but my kids’ favorite place to go to dinner, if it is totally up to them, is Benihana. They love the whole dinner and a show thing. And the nice thing about it, they love pretty much everything they serve and have something to occupy themselves. Recently a new Japanese steakhouse opened just up the street from our house, and it is not a chain, which got me kind of excited, so we thought we would give it a try. Apparently, they used to be in Des Moines, but have moved the whole place here.
This restaurant is very large and offers both the teppanyaki (cooking at the table in front of you) and a large regular sushi area with a sushi bar and regular bar. It was not too crowded yet, as it has really just opened in the last few weeks, which was sort of nice for us because we had our whole table to ourselves and our kids are a little crazy. The menu is very similar to Benihana, except they offer more reasonable prices for their kid’s meals.
So the kids and I both ordered shrimp dinners and hubby ordered a combination dinner with steak and scallops. All the meals come with soup and a salad as well as fried rice. For the soup you can have the classic Japanese steakhouse soup of broth with fried onions and sliced mushrooms or the traditional sushi restaurant miso soup with tofu. The kids got the broth, which tasted like it might be beef broth and was pretty good. I had the miso which was very good miso soup—lots of tofu which I always like.
You can get the salad with a soy vinaigrette or a ginger dressing. I am not usually a fan of soy vinaigrette but I did enjoy the ginger dressing. However, Japanese salads with the iceberg don’t usually get me that excited. These did have a bit of other field greens mixed in with the iceberg, but they weren’t super exciting.
The chef came out and cooked next and I have to say, he was super friendly and put on quite a show for the kids. If you had asked the kids which place they preferred, before even eating their food, they would have chosen this place based on the chef alone. First off, he started with making a giant flame on the table, which I have read Benihana will no longer do for liability reasons. So they were into that. Then, as he cooked the fried rice with egg, and some diced veggies, he offered to let my kids cook with him. My daughter, who has always been quite appalled by the lack of female teppanyaki chefs, of course jumped at the chance. My son, being my slightly shyer child, passed. Anyhow, he let her flip the egg around and she was thrilled. And the fact that he promised to let her do it anytime she came certainly endeared her to the place. At this point, I was just praying the food was edible since I already know where she will be requesting on her nights out.
Everyone seemed to like the fried rice (I had steamed). There is no shrimp appetizer included in the dinner however (like at Benihana), so at this point he started cooking everyone’s dinner. They have two sauces to serve with the meat, a sort of creamy slightly mustardy sauce and a thick ginger sauce. Interestingly, they recommend the ginger with the red meat and the creamy sauce with the seafood (which is the opposite of Benihana). Personally, I love the tangy-ness of the ginger sauce (as does my daughter) and have always used it for everything. But here, I had to ask to get it since I was having shrimp; initially he only gave me the other. But it was really good, thicker and even more gingery then at Benihana. The one thing I did not like though, was that they actually cook the shrimp on the grill with some of the creamy sauce, which I would not get the next time. But if you like that sauce with your shrimp, cooking it with some extra would certainly not hurt. The kids seemed to like it anyway. They also served the shrimp whole, instead of chopping it up, which bummed me out a little since I then had to cut it up for the kids. (Normally that is one of the beauties of the Japanese steakhouse. Everything comes sized to order for the kids.)
They also did veggies—onions, broccoli, carrots, and zucchini and made a very exciting volcano out of the onions which of course the kids also loved. Hubby really liked his scallops—and they looked like nice ones and were cooked well. I had quite a bit of his steak (he upgraded to a filet) which was really good, possibly my favorite thing. But the kids ate really well, and really enjoyed themselves, which is most of the battle when dining out with them. And hey, it wasn’t chicken nuggets or grilled cheese.
We also got a piece of chocolate cake, and our server was very careful to check the ingredients and let us know that is was made somewhere that processes peanuts, because my son is allergic. The cake was clearly one of the pre-made refrigerated jobbies (I hate cold cake) but my daughter loved it and mentions it, along with the fact that they have chocolate milk, and that she got to cook, whenever she tells someone about it. Oh and did I mention all the fish tanks? Also a big draw. But for adults, it has a nice modern feel with some interesting water/light features and soothing color scheme.
So we will certainly be back (it is almost a guarantee with as much as the kids loved it) and with a few tweaks for me (no sauce on the shrimp when it is cooking, or maybe one of the steak and seafood combos), I am glad to have a place to go that is local and where the people are really into their jobs. And while our server (who brought the drinks, soups and salad) was clearly still learning, she was really friendly and helpful. They were extremely accommodating to the kids, even down to the cheater chopsticks and free refills on the chocolate milk.
Hubby and I also decided to give Taki a quick try for lunch before I posted this review. We ordered a couple of rolls and some tempura shrimp. The tempura was nice, a little different from most I have had, almost has a consistency of panko crumbs on the outside, but it was nice and crunchy and I liked that the tempura sauce was served warm, which helped keep the whole thing warm til the end.
The rolls were good. Not amazing or anything, but not bad. Ok, I think I have told you all that I am generally not a fan of rolls because I don’t like the seaweed. Lately I have been noticing a lot of rolls made with soy paper, so I thought, hey, this might just be the perfect scenario for me. So the roll I wanted to try was called the “Dynamite Lola,” which was soft shell crab (and you know how I love soft shell crab), spicy tuna, avocado and spicy sauce, and was described as being wrapped in soy paper. So, it was wrapped in soy paper, but there was still an interior part of the roll that was wrapped in seaweed, so it didn’t really help this aversion for me. The ingredients themselves were all well done and tasty, but I guess I am learning I am not a roll person. Hubby, who loves the seaweed has learned he is not a soy paper person, having never had it before. He did not care for the consistency of it.
The other roll we go was the “Taki” roll, which he liked better. It was salmon and crab tempura. It was pretty tasty (other then that pesky seaweed). They do have a ton of different rolls and sushi options, pretty much some of everything. And the fish itself seemed to be very good quality, and that is the most important thing right? They have just started serving lunch, and there weren’t a lot of people in there when we were there, but our server told us their dinners are getting more and more crowded. I do think it is a good alternative to have in this area, which is so heavily dominated by mediocre chains. I am going to go back and try a Bento box next time for lunch and see how that goes.
It is a pretty place, and a very friendly staff. If you have gone, or do go, please let me know what you think, as I am interested to see how this place does.
Taki Japanese Restaurant
4040 East 82nd Street