Dinner – Wednesday, February 19, 2020
As of this writing, Takiya is Tabelog’s #1 ranked tempura restaurant in Tokyo (and second overall to Niitome in Nagoya). My last meal there was less than three months ago, but I didn’t have time to post about it – consider this my attempt at rectifying the situation. The overall flow of meals is similar across time, but with different ingredients being featured according to the seasons – in late November, matsuba-gani (snow crab) was the highlight, whereas tonight, fugu was the star.
Fugu, shirako, ankimo and karasumi kicked off the meal, accompanied by sweet shrimp and ikura. These ingredients would be a recurring theme throughout the dinner.
The astute observer will note one shrimp above, but two heads here. The other shrimp was served as the penultimate savory bite, before the rice course. I rather like this arrangement, as it serves to bring the meal full circle and highlights the importance of the ebi to the genre of tempura.
Ginnan (gingko nuts)
Matsuba-gani, kani miso
Snow crabs are still going strong in February, and this delicate fry proved it. The sweetness of the crab in the thin batter paired superbly with the sauce of its innards.
Nori tempura, Murasaki uni, yuba
This humble mushroom turned out to be one of my favorite dishes of the evening – it was fantastically tender and packed with umami. An impressive demonstration of Kasamoto-san’s skill in the battering and frying here.
Perfectly cooked mackerel – look at the center! The gradient of textures was killer.
Renkon (lotus root)
Matsuba-gani “tartare” salad, tomatoes
A nice, cold refresher after the rather large portion of blowfish milt. Mayonnaise and acid helped reset the palate.
A bit of a signature item here – the tender beef is mild in flavour, which allows the shiso to assert itself.
Ten-bara, fugu, karasumi
The rice was topped with tempura fugu, and completely blanketed with a layer of shaved karasumi – this was absolutely amazing. We were instructed to try it “dry”, and then spoon the miso soup (which also contained fugu) over it for a different flavour. This would’ve been excellent already, but the addition of sprigs of kinome really added another level of sophistication to the dish. My course of the night.
Strawberry gelée, vanilla creme anglaise
Warabi mochi, sencha
It goes without saying that every item is perfectly cooked at a restaurant of this level, but what I really love about Takiya is how Kasamoto-san pushes the boundaries of tradition. He is constantly tweaking and innovating, faithfully executing the classics but unafraid to redefine what can be done with tempura. I leave each meal with a strong urge to return and see what he’s trying next. I’m quite sad that I don’t foresee another trip to Japan for the rest of this year, but I’m hoping to get back again ASAP.