TABLES FOR TWO
by Silvia Killingsworth
JANUARY 24, 2011
It is an increasingly common practice for diners to look up obscure menu items on their smartphones, but at Takashi, a self-proclaimed “meat mecca” that serves only beef, phones can remain pocketed—two walls of the place are covered with an encyclopedic crib sheet on yakiniku, or Japanese barbecue. The mural includes concise descriptions and cute illustrations of various cuts of meat and horumon (literally, “discarded goods,” or offal), along with notes on their vitamin content and supposed health benefits. Chef Takashi Inoue, a Japanese immigrant of Korean descent, works behind the counter, liberating pleasing rectilinear shapes from boulders of beef, which are fashionably sourced from purveyors like Dickson’s and Pat LaFrieda. With the yellow cattle-crossing sign and the curtain emblazoned with the kanji character for “meat,” there’s no mistaking what’s for dinner.
Customers pick through complimentary plates of mild, addictive kimchi and raw cabbage dressed with miso as they decide how daring they should be. The chuck-eye tartare, a suggested dish for first-timers, is an excellent showcase for the high-quality beef, but you don’t go to Osaka to order a Continental specialty. The game-faced can try the fresh, slippery liver (reminiscent of sashimi) or the curiously crunchy and spicy flash-boiled Achilles tendon (whose texture and hypnotic power are comparable to bubble wrap). More experienced palates will not be fazed by the niku-natto, minced chuck eye with pungent fermented soybeans, which leaves trails of gooey, sticky strings when pulled apart. The same population is probably already familiar with the Toto Washlet in the rest room, and will return to the table with complete composure.
After the appetizers, a black exhaust hood is lowered, and a tabletop electric grill is switched on. Metal tongs are used to flip marbled short ribs and slices of cheek and tongue, and—for those emboldened by sake or the yeasty Hitachino Red Rice Ale—chewy chunks of mino and akasen, also known as first and fourth stomach. On a recent visit, a server advised on the two seasoning options: salt, garlic, and sesame oil or Takashi’s foolproof signature soy-based marinade. Cooking times were cheerfully suggested, depending on one’s preference for milky or caramelized sweetbreads, at which point one gentleman produced a smartphone with a stopwatch function. There was a clash of chopsticks as he asked the young woman at his side, “Are you trying to overcook my heart?” (Open daily for dinner. Entrées $12-$28.) ♦
PHOTOGRAPH: MARIA LOKKE