It’s been several years since Taka Moriuchi packed his knives, left his position as understudy to sushi God Sotohiro Kosugi (aka the dude who ran the much discussed Soto), and settled in as the leader of Taka Sushi Café.
Much like my father, it took me some time before I warmed to the idea of visiting Taka-san in Buckhead. Even after Soto departed our fare city, something in me caused this undue shackling of obligations. Mind you, nothing about that decision had anything to do with the kind and approachable Taka.
Time passed and wounds healed, and so began my long inevitable decent into complacency. Yes, I finally started to drift in and out of this notable Buckhead establishment. As it happened, 24-months had flown by since my last soirée, well before the young Buddha was born within. Rather than try and recall experiences buried in the cobwebs someone might call “my brain,” a recent night cap inspired this infant impression.
Nestled in a free-standing box style house, Taka has drawn his line in the sand and taken up fortification as a neighborhood sushi bar. Somewhat hard to see amongst Buckhead’s version of a BuHi strip center, Taka-san sits quietly going about his business in a Pharr out way.
Any potential misconceptions as to the intended experience quickly evaporate once one enters the door. While Taka does not translate as the hyper-excited / über friendly establishment one might find elsewhere, it does give our ritziest residents a taste of approachability.
On any given night, you are likely to find the softly lit bar awash in Buckheadians looking for a different song and dance. That ambient light provided for some cool artistic shots (in that P&S sort of way), though it didn’t do me any favors with the food. This easy to swallow attitude spills out into the adjunct porch. There, in the winter months, the curtains are dropped and the heaters are pumped.
During our engagement, service started early, quickly wallowed, returned for quite sometime, and then died off as the server did his best Houdini. It’s amazing how many servers fall off the earth when all you want to do is pay. Still, I don’t know that anything was so off that your basic homo sapiens would object … unless you’re some irrational irate (coughs … looks in the other direction).
Somewhere in the mix, Papa Buddha jettisoned his menu across the table, looked at me and said: “Whatever you want.” A palpable tension swept across me. Many men have stepped up to the ordering podium only to drop the ball most disgracefully. Ah, but this was my family and they would love me just the same. Invigorated, I pounded my fists, cracked my neck, and bellowed “Damn the torpedoes!”
Moments later, a plate of lightly battered calamari hit the table. Though there were some grunts of approval from those around me, none of us were truly moved in the right direction. I found the batter a bit too soft and the bites texturally flat. I would say this dish delivered oversold potential. Not wrong, not horrible, just flat.
Next down was the blue shrimp tartare. Blue shrimp, a somewhat off-beat selection, do not have a particular differentiator from their relatives so far as flavors go. However, their whitish hue is a “different” visual. This incarnation of tartare was solid with momentary flashes of mmmm. Layered amongst some avocados and oils, the shrimp offered a nice alternative to the predictable tuna version (also available). Bites went down smoothly in part because of the slippery when wet nature of shrimp. However, the crustaceans themselves had just the right resistance, giving each bite a bit more intrigue than an order of Charlie.
The highly anticipated uni ravioli felt like a great idea that just didn’t come together spectacularly. The pairing of uni and scallops (aka the ravioli) was playful only in name. It is a combination executed with such spectacular success elsewhere that I’ve almost wanted to squeal like an overjoyed pig. With Taka, the flavors were comfortably familiar and delivered via fresh samplings. However, the hint of excitement generated by the title was lost. What we had was a very good bite of fresh scallop wrapped against equally competent uni. The creaminess indeed melded with the meatiness. Nothing amazing, but definitely serviceable.
One of the latecomers was an order of seared toro. The exterior held that familiar white char, but initial bites were a little too dry. Persistence has never been a problem with me, and my small effort to engage the interior was well rewarded. Pieces flaked apart and were wrapped nicely when coated with a little extra yuzu swimming in the bowl. Yes, these prime bites were silkiness incarnate.
The pinnacle of the meal dropped in unexpectedly with that post-worthy burger. Put it this way … I wrote a whole pontification on the damn thing … ‘nuff said.
Moving on from the assembled and created expressions, we settled in on a variety of sashimi options. By this time, we where sharing in the groove, gladly chatting while intertwining our words around bites of various fish productions. Now it was time to simplify. Every bite went down without a fuss, but there were no immensely impressive samplings. Don’t be fooled though, the $170 price tag was more than reasonable considering the amount of food that we ordered, the two glasses of wine, and the overall quality of the grub. Though we’re playing “first impressions,” I will tell you that I have had exquisite samplings in past visits.
But living in the here and now (or at least the “just the other day”), presentation was simple and straightforward. That doesn’t mean that this was sushi by numbers; there are a handful of twists and turns to keep you on your toes. Taka-san doesn’t play it safe, he just play it simple. Where he really shines is in the effort put into the preparation of the dishes. There is a distinct care and love for his craft, and its carried to its logical conclusion by the use of fresh, quality ingredients. Heck, even his blog is full of Taka love!
There were some true highlights and overall, this is a cuddly warm place that forgoes some of the pomp and circumstance of other establishments. Taka Sushi Café settles in as one of the better neighborhood sushi bars and satisfies on most every level. While my inner child still finds solace at Sushi House Hayakawa, Taka is a more than ample substitute considering that it is a good bit closer to those of us that live ITP.
Atlanta Foodies on Taka
- The Cynical Cook on Taka (07.19.09)
- Chow Down Atlanta on Taka (09.18.08)
- Blissful Glutton on Taka (09.15.05)