tried a just-opened spot for dinner in downtown LA: takami, which serves sushi and robata (skewers). i’m always curious about the ongoing gentrification of downtown LA; i drive past skid row streets where it’s 1934 all over again, and not six blocks away there are fascinating little alleys dedicated to toymakers, or flowers, or really really inexpensive (close your eyes and wish the sweatshop away) clothes.
and i also forget that all those skyscrapers downtown? are largely populated by accountants, and insurance and medical corporation personnel. so there are plenty of expense accounts to soak up fine dining dollars.
HB and i had:
- filet mignon and foie gras robata
- scallop robata
- spicy tuna on crispy rice
- baked king crab roll
- tuna sashimi with chopped jalapeno peppers
- green salads because we were nowhere near full
and a lychee something or other mixed drink. i’d have noted the name of the drink, but did you know lychees absolutely soak up rum like a sponge? sly little fruits. strong pours at takami; i got kinda blotto because let’s face it, sushi doesn’t stick to your ribs and absorb the alcohol, and also i’m a lightweight. but i still took notes.
the upshot? pricey and not that good.
anyway, takami‘s views are incredible–there’s a 270-degree-plus outdoor patio wrapping the main restaurant interior. you can see much of downtown from seats inside or out, and it’s beautiful, to be sure. there’s a startling frisson of danger when you realize that the glass wind barrier keeping the night chill off diners outside is akin to the 4-foot high fence on the golden gate bridge that separates the jumpers from the water. that is, inadequate.
but the food? i think takami must’ve paid their employees to create screennames to rave about them on chowhound. oh, cynical me. this is the “YMMV/maybe they totally ordered the right thing and i didn’t, so i felt like i wasted money and am bitter about it and can’t deal” portion of the post. (this crank P i l l o w b o o k on anyone’s payroll? as if.)
i did like the jalapeno peppers with our tuna sashimi. i enjoyed getting a blast of spicy pepper instead of sinus-clearing wasabi. i wanted to see more daring little touches like that one.
our filet mignon skewers were a little too well done for my taste, and what’s the point of eating foie gras if it’s the kitchen-sponge texture of baked tofu? worse, we couldn’t distinguish which was beef and which was duck liver on the skewer. were the bits of filet mignon wrapped with strips of foie gras? i shouldn’t even have to ask the question.
likewise, the scallop robata were overcooked too. that spells inattention at the grill.
the spicy tuna on crispy rice cakes were tasty and plentiful. i think there were a dozen on our platter of one order. then again, the rice cakes are as big as a fiddy-cent piece. however, aside from some hot chili seasoning, i don’t recall tasting anything else…no sesame oil, no rice wine, no cut-with-green-onions poke-ish treatment to the tuna. so if it’s possible to have a one-note flavor of hotness, that’s what i recall.
the baked king crab roll again seemed to be neither here nor there: a dollop of decent enough crab meat inside a hand roll made with tofu skin (i believe it was) imitating a food-grade industrial film (the kind of industrial film that dissolves in your mouth, not the kind that runs through a projector). i wish the wrap were as inventive as a ginger-carrot film with a dose of omega-3s, or something; it would’ve been far more inventive. and tasty. in this iteration, i had to wonder, why did the whole thing have to be baked? the tofu skin wasn’t crisp; the insides didn’t seem to have undergone any key transformation from exposure to heat. any reason why the crab itself couldn’t have been baked and the rest served as is? puzzling.
and therein lies my gripe with takami: what raw i tasted wasn’t noteable; what cooked i tasted was overcooked…or like the baked crab roll, a weird temperature above ‘room’ but below ‘body’. they seem to have committed neither to the near-death-skirting rawness of sushi, nor the quick, well-timed lick of flames from a really really hot fire. i long to say to takami: go ahead, be extreme! get crazy with your bad self. loosen up that tie, don’t be the cubicle drone of restaurants. buy up some bizarre but amazing food-grade industrial films and start wowing us with the flavors you put together.
so go for the drinks and the view after work, and don’t look down from the 21st story heights—not with those strong pours.