Superlatives can’t do justice to this singular-worthy Los Angeles dining experience.
It’s easy to write a bad restaurant review. Just like describing the evil villains in movies, there is a slightly wicked sense of fun in complaining about a visit to a bad restaurant. But my extraordinary dining experience at Takami Sushi & Robata Restaurant left me with nothing but good things to say. In fact, throughout the whole evening at Takami, my mind was awhirl with superlatives. My dilemma? How to make fantastic (!), delicious (!!), and spectacular (!!!) sound like I wasn’t exaggerating. So I’ll say it up front and without quibbling — you really need to go, see, taste and experience Takami for yourself. My convincing argument follows.
I entered the modern office building in L.A.’s financial district that houses the Takami Sushi & Robata Restaurant and rode to the ear-popping 21st floor. My first view upon entering: Takimi’s stark sophistication bathed in a warm, golden light. The clean, geometric lines were punctuated with dramatic curves of enormous slabs of burnished wood, Plexiglas-encased driftwood tables, and free-form driftwood sculptures.
I was early so I waited for my friend Ron in the lounge, captivated by the view in front of me. The ceilings, at least 30 feet high, offer spectacular views of our city — the monolithic forest of glass and steel juxtaposed against the endless sea of low-lying constructions and roads, as far as the eye can follow. Comfortable, yet stark couches line the glass wall and angle around the corner. I was thankful the décor didn’t detract from the star — the city below. I looked forward to watching the scenario go from daylight to sundown to black night.
I ordered a cucumber gimlet while waiting for my companion. The refreshing combo of sake-infused vodka, cucumber puree and fresh lemonade went immediately to my head. Other interesting choices included lychee mojitos, ginger margaritas and white tea rose margaritas. Thankfully, Ron arrived before I was too far “gone,” and we were escorted to our table. In spite of the full house and lively crowd, it was surprisingly easy to hold a conversation across the white-clothed table. I truly appreciate this aspect, as it’s tiring to strain to hear over the din in many otherwise comfortable restaurants.
Hungry and enthusiastic, Ron and I dug into our edamame sautéed with garlic and soy. We followed with Hama oysters, served on crushed ice in an impressive giant cocktail glass with tiny sauce dishes arranged around the base. The oysters were brimming with flavor and sweetness and beautifully enhanced, but not overshadowed by choices of wasabi cocktail sauce, sweet miso vinegar with chives, and soy jalapeno garnishing sauces.
On our server’s recommendation, we ordered the eggplant tempura appetizer, a special of the day. Marinated in sweet soy and garlic and served on shredded diakon and carrots, the tempura was perfection. It had a very light and crunchy crust enveloping the almost molten eggplant cloud within.
Although I am very familiar with Japanese cuisine, I was not familiar with robata — which is part of the Takami Sushi & Robata name. Robata are skewered and lightly grilled meat, fish, poultry or vegetables dipped into sauces. We ordered a robata with New York steak and asparagus and one with Chilean sea bass. Both were simple, top quality ingredients and delectable when dipped into the black truffle sauce, avocado wasabi and Champagne yuzo (a Japanese citrus similar to lemon).
As the lights of Los Angeles began to twinkle below us, we followed the robatas with my favorite dish for the evening, the Takami tartar. This specialty looks too good to eat — a jewel on a plate. But dig in we did, into the layered succulent Ahi tuna, king crab, spicy tuna, avocado and chewy rice, flavored with Karashi soy dressing. Cut into convenient quarters, we were able to pop bite-sized morsels into our mouths and get the full range of fresh textures and flavors.
We followed the tartar with sautéed lobster on the half shell and mixed seafood (baby scallops and shrimp). Although the presentation of this dish was impressive — a delicate, lacy net of potato lay suggestively on top the fishermen’s catch — it was the least successful dish of the evening. The seafood was fresh and cooked perfectly, but the heavy tomato sauce overpowered the delicacy of the fish and lobster. Next, we gratefully inhaled a plate of yellowtail sashimi, lightly drizzled with diced chili, citrusy ponzu, corn micro greens and pickled onion slivers.
One small complaint: The soothing jazz background music that was playing on my arrival had turned into heart-thumping electronic disco drone. General Manager Leonard Matsumoto told us it’s the norm on Friday and Saturday nights when the next-door disco club, Elevate Lounge, is active. Elevate is owned by the same proprietors and the weekend crowd often frequents both establishments. In fact, takami means “elevated place,” but I would prefer to return on a weekday night for a more peaceful aural experience. On Tuesday evenings, there is live jazz, which sounds like heaven above L.A. to me.
With the “eyes are bigger than my stomach syndrome,” I felt compelled to taste one last savory dish. So we ordered the chef’s mixed sashimi. It was simply magnificent — pristine, generous and flawless rectangles of Kampachi (also called Amberjack) Halibut, Snapper, Salmon, Albacore, Tuna and Uni. My only regret is that we did not start the meal with the sashimi, as I had to open my internal “reserve space” to accommodate these morsels. But, staunch foodie that I am, I wasn’t about to let one iota of deliciousness go to waste!
In a heroic last effort to do our part, we opted for desserts. Ron chose the molten chocolate yuzu cake and I went for the delicate yube (Japanese sweet potato) panna cotta. Both transcended superlatives with lightness, smooth texture and subtle flavorings. A drizzle of raspberry mango sauce and vanilla ice cream highlighted the warm and seductive bittersweet ooze of the chocolate. The silky panna cotta was deceptively simple and paired deliciously with a ginger crème anglaise.
For any occasion — or no particular occasion — Takami is not to be missed. This is a gem, flying high above the streets of L.A. Go there and enjoy. And please, take me with you when you go.