February 14th 2010 was quite a memorable day, mainly because I had walked down Michigan Avenue with part of my dress tucked into my underwear on the way to the Symphony, but by the time we arrived at Takashi for dinner I had nearly forgotten my minor faux-pas.
We had been meaning to try Takashi for sometime, so when I finally realized we were dining at this intimate establishment, I was quite excited to finally sample some of Chef Takashi’s Japanese influenced French-American style dishes.
Nestled on Damen in what appears to be a small house Takashi is a contemporary dining experience in a neighborhood setting. As you enter the front door, you are immediately greeted by a steep staircase which leads to the second floor dining area. We were placed here for the evening amongst other lovebirds of sorts. The space feels very inviting and has a good karma from the last restaurant that resided at this location. It just happens to be the same space as Scylla the restaurant Stephanie Izard closed prior to her Top Chef win.
The menu has a large selection of small plates, both hot and cold, with several larger dishes at end to close the meal. We opted for the a la carte menu, though they offered a prixe fixe menu for Valentine’s Day.
We began our meal with a cold plate. We started with Japanese Yellowtail Hamachi with spicy Napa Cabbage slaw and daikon pickled califlower and an aromatic vineagarette. It was a unique raw preparation with blasts of heat from the slaw that was prepared kimchee style. The spiciness nearly overwhelmed me at first but fortunately I had a delicious glass of wine that put out the fires raging in my mouth.
For our next course, we had the Soy-Ginger Carmel Pork Belly with Pickled Daikon Salad, Steamed Buns. Now I have to say, I had my reservations when George ordered this dish. Despite what the majority of the culinary world seems to think, I have always found pork belly to be… well… a giant slab of fat that just never seems appetizing. So when our pork belly arrived, I must say I took my first bite with trepidation. The dish was fantastic! It was basically a deconstructed chinese steamed bun. I assembled my bite by first placing a sliced of steamed bun down, next a small spread of wasabi mustard, then comes the perfectly cooked, melt in your mouth pork belly, and finally topped with pickled daikon salad. The combination of flavors was outstanding. It was blend of classic Korean and Chinese flavors.
We stayed with the hot small plates for our next course and had the Sauteed Main Scallops and Soba Gnocchi Trumpet Royale, Celery Root-Parmesan Foam. This dish was the perfect fusion of East and West. Now, I am very skeptical of the overplayed “fusion” concept that dominates the food scene, but if there ever was an example of true fusion of flavors, this would be it. The soba gnocchi was delicate and the scallops perfectly cooked. The sauce was so good that I caught George lapping up the last drops with a silly grin on his face.
For our final course we had the Roasted Indiana Duck Breast and Confit of Leg with a Compote of Quince, Ginger-Orange Glaze. The duck was well cooked and married well with ginger orange glaze. It was the right balance of sweet and savory. I was in love with the confit of leg, but a little unhappy with skin on duck breast. I was hoping it would be a little more crispy, but I know that would have sacrificed the perfect level of doneness when it arrived at our table.
The second main dish we had was the Mackarel with a napa cabbage roll and eggplant. This fish had a nice crispy skin but reminded me of the sea a little too much.
This may be because George could not stop saying how he has always found mackarel to be a little fishy in taste since the minute we ordered the dish. The eggplant was well prepared and complimented the fish well, but the delicious wrapped napa cabbage with the sauce was the real treat to me.
We were quite impressed with the elegance of each dish presented to us, and even more impressed with the seamless fusion of cultures. Takashi is the ultimate example of what true fusion cuisine is suppose to be and now joins the short list of gourmet restaurants that we dub worthy of taking our out of town guests.
Takashi | 1952 N Damen Street Chicago IL 60647 | (773) 772-6170 |