Posted by: Hungry Korean | January 26, 2012

Takashi

I’ve actually had Takashi on my list of “Places I Want to Try” for awhile.  But when Anthony Bourdain visited Takashi on his recent New York episode of the Layover and chowed down on some highly delicious looking food, I knew it was time to make the visit a reality.  Takashi is run by a Korean who was raised in Japan – so the food served here has Korean and Japanese influences – the focus being on grilled meats.  You have your standard cuts (ribeye, short rib, belly etc) but the star is the unused, unusual cuts of offal.  I don’t really eat a ton of offal aside from tripe and sweetbreads and of course duck liver and pate, but the reviews on the less choice cuts were really great so I thought, why not give them a try?

I grabbed Strawberry, a fellow eater and adventurous palate, to eat at Takashi.  She also had heard great things and was more than willing to be my companion.  We got there at 630, avoided the long wait (which later in the night I overheard being 2 hours!!!) and was seated at the sushi bar with a grill.  We decided to order a bunch and share.

This is what you get the minute you sit down. In Korean restaurants – it is called “banchan” or small plates typically eaten with your meal.  Takashi served up some kimchi (far left), some raw cabbage (center) in this outstanding sauce (it was slightly spicy, vinegary and bursting with umami flavors…maybe even a touch of miso?) and some bean sprouts with ground sesame. We ate all the cabbage because the crunch of the cabbage and that sauce was addictive.

The first to appear was the kobe slider stuffed with foie gras and served with a BBQ chocolate sauce.

The kobe slider is not served on a bun but in a sizzling mini cast iron skillet. Kobe slider was only slightly larger than maybe a golf ball and stuffed with foie and served with a quail egg.  The chocolate sauce is drizzled table side. Yelp reviewers LOVE this dish and I have to say, I did not love it so much? I love all things kobe, foie and egg but I found the meat itself very tough and almost grainy and there definitely wasn’t enough foie gras to satisfy me.  I was not terribly fond of the chocolate sauce…but then again, I’m not one that loves sweet mixed in with the savory.  For $20 for ONE, this was not worth it.

The niku-uni, which is kobe raw chuck flap topped with sea urchin, shiso leaf and dried seaweed, arrived next:

This is what I saw Bourdain eating on the Layover and it was this very dish that served as the impetus to push me to finally go to Takashi. Bourdain took a mouthful and closed his eyes in delight…Strawberry and I did the same.  The uni was soooo creamy and enhanced the fat marbled raw meat. The shiso leaf burst with flavor in your mouth (a flavor I find very difficult to describe but only as slightly minty, a little licquorishy and fresh).  The whole mouthful was finished with a crunchy slightly briny flavor from the seaweed. SO good. So worth it.

Next came the beef tendon casserole:

Beef tendon casserole is exactly that – only stewed so long that the tendon is melt in your mouth soft and the beef is fall apart.  I was skeptical of how good this dish could be but I have to say, it was one of my favorites for the night (the other being the uni raw beef plate above).  The casserole was rich, slightly sweet and like thick gravy – probably thickened by the slow cooked tendon and the stew was full of beef flavor. Every mouthful tasted like the best beef stew one would ever eat. The portion was small but due to the richness of the plate, half was plenty for me.

Now we moved onto the grilling portion of our meal.  We opted to get an order of beef tongue and the chef’s choice of freshest parts.  The meats are served with a side of sesame oil and salt that you dip the grilled meat into.  The dipping sauce enhances the richness and flavors of the meat.

So grill, then dip, then eat:

So the tongue – I thought I would really enjoy this. I have a problem with tongue – it grosses me out to be honest but if you’ve been following my blog, I’ll try everything once and I do love things that most people find gross (ie uni, bone marrow, tripe, etc).  Bourdain LOVES tongue as do alot of my friends. They describe it as tender brisket..both in texture and flavor. So we ordered an entire plate of it.

Fresh off the grill you are hit with a nice beefy smokey flavor but I didn’t find it as tender as brisket…it was chewy! And very sinewy.  I also found it slightly gamey.  I don’t think I like tongue.

The chef’s choice of freshest parts:  first stomach, fourth stomach, sweetbreads, beef cheeks (which replaced liver at our request) and heart.  The chef’s choice items we opted to have marinated in the special Takashi marinade.  

I’ve eaten tripe and sweetbread so I wasn’t worried about the first and fourth stomach. Beef cheeks probably just taste like beef so what’s the fear there?  But it was the heart that made me stop. I’ve never had heart. I’ve had kidney before and hated it and I figured the flavors would be similar.  But again, all reviewers mentioned the heart as being very tasty.

Let me give you a run down of each thing on the plate – or my impressions of it.  1st and 4th stomach – both very chewy but aside from that, all you really taste is the marinade. Chew as much as you like cuz you ain’t grinding that thing down with teeth. Just chew and swallow.  Sweetbreads were very fresh and creamy but the aftertaste was quite gamey. I realize I prefer my sweetbreads breaded and fried – not so fresh as this.  Beef cheeks tasted like beef but just a bit tougher – probably cuz it’s a worked muscle.  Heart: here we go. The first impression is “oh it’s juicy and tastes like beef” but then the gamey-ness kicks in and it kicks in hard.  It’s also a little crunchy?  Suddenly my stomach turned and I had to swallow so I didn’t gag. I don’t know if this was just my mind getting around the fact that I was eating heart but I did not like it.  I took another bite to make sure and revelation: No more heart for me.  But for what it’s worth, Takashi’s marinade is amazing. They should bottle it up and sell it.

For dessert we got the vanilla ice cream with the works: salted caramel sauce, green tea powder, mochi and sweet red bean.

FYI vanilla ice cream with an option of topping or the works is the only dessert they offer here but don’t pass it up. Especially not the salted caramel sauce! The sauce was salty and slightly bitter and worked really amazing with the other sweet toppings.  Nice way to finish the meal.

So my thoughts on Takashi – I would come back for the niku-uni and the beef tendon casserole and probably stick to more standard beef cuts. I also want to try the oxtail pie on the menu.  But in terms of straight up grilled beef? I’ll go to Korea Town for that. You get alot more for your money and the beef is better in my opinion.  Takashi is nice for a novelty night and it’s fun to grill with a friend.  This place doesn’t take reservations unless you are a party of 4 or more and make sure you wear something that you can wash right after – you walk out smelling of BBQ’d meat.

Takashi, 456 Hudson Street, New York, NY

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