Good | Worth a Return
Review by: Michael Stern
Aside from a common interest in chilies, stereotypical Asian and southwestern cuisines don’t have a lot in common; and yet, the pairing has grown popular at food trucks and in restaurants around the country. Where I live, the place to get acquainted with it is Takosushi. Being a six-store chain that appears to be growing into a larger one, it doesn’t fit the definition of a Roadfood eatery as one-of-a-kind; but the food is unique. And some of it is very tasty.
First, let’s get this straight: Takosushi does not serve fusion cuisine. Its menu includes both Mexican/southwestern and Asian (mostly Japanese) fare, but with only a couple of exceptions, no single dish mixes the two. So, you can eat sushi and tempura-fried vegetables or chile rellenos and fajitas. No matter which way you go, the food is creative and stylish; and when several parties at one table order from different continents, the feast is curiously harmonious, aesthetically and edibly. In other words, as I chomped down on my veggie egg rolls and Asian dumplings, it seemed perfectly reasonable (and very satisfying) to fork up a few bites of carne adovada from the plate of a companion.
The menu has its ups and downs. Way up is tempura asparagus. Hearty stalks, fresh and al dente, deliver smoky vegetable vigor inside a thick veil of vividly seasoned batter. They’re not elegant — the stalks are big, the tempura is thicker than typical — but they are delicious and tremendously satisfying. Another winner from the Far Eastern side of the menu is the Crazy Roll: sticky rice packed around tempura shrimp and crisp cucumber, topped with crab, fresh shrimp, and avocado. plus a sweet teriyaki glaze and spicy pink Takosushi sauce.
The Mexican / southwestern fare is less impressive. I suppose it serves me right for expecting something on par with the great green chile cheeseburgers of New Mexico when I ordered a Tako Burger, but I easily left half of it uneaten on the plate. The menu says that the meat is a blend of short rib, brisket, and chuck and that it is topped with green chilies. That may be, however this burger impressed me as having the consistency — and flavor — of one that’s been machine-pressed from lesser meat. As for the chilies, they have no more character than those from an Old El Paso can of Milds. To be clear, it is not a terrible burger; the presentation is handsome and it tastes alright. But compared to the success of Asian items on the menu, it’s forgettable. Other southwestern disappointments include leaden fish tacos and quesadillas in which a surfeit of soulless cheese overwhelms whatever other ingredients the tortilla sandwich contains.
On the other hand, tuna tartare is the best of both worlds. It is called southwestern tuna tartare for the pepper punch of jalapenos; and the tuna itself is sushi grade — dense and silk-smooth. Combined with avocado, lime juice, and mayonnaise, it is a Takosushi best dish.
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