Takashi – Salt Lake City, UT
It's hard for me to believe I have been blogging for a couple years and have not written up the restaurant that is probably the one place at which I have dined more than any other restaurant. I mean, I have probably eaten over 50 meals at Takashi. Takashi made me fall in love with sushi. It was a tremendous part of my food evolution in my late teens and early 20s. And it was the first place I ate my absolute favorite thing––uni!
One might not expect an intermountain, inland city like Salt Lake to have any manner of serviceable sushi, but SLC's status as a major Delta hub gives the city access to fresh-flown-in fish daily. Takashi Gibo, the artist behind this establishment (and the father of a classmate of mine from middle school!) has created one of the most celebrated institutions of dining in Salt Lake City, serving some of the most inventive, fantastic, and reasonably priced sushi I've ever had. When time came to come back to Salt Lake City this month, I knew it would be the first place I had to visit.
We were hungry after our drive, and Takashi doesn't take reservations, so we lined up before their first seating to make sure we got a table. This was the first time I'd dined indoors with full capacity since the pandemic started, and it was a bit jarring!
Takashi has a fantastic bar staff, and their selection of cocktails is regularly excellent. Georgia ordered a "Playa Tamarindo," which had bourbon, tamarind, grilled lemon, and angostura, and was delicious! I tried their "Kind of blue," a blueberry and vodka drink with shiso and yuzu, which I actually ordered as a take-home mixer set when I got Takashi takeout last winter in SLC. Both were excellent!
Takashi's tempura is epic. Lightly breaded, and served with dashi for dipping and a green tea sea salt, it's rather addicting. We decided on their shishito pepper tempura to split for an appetizer. Georgia got the one-in-ten spicy shishito for her first bite, which I was jealous about, since I have been jonesing for spice lately, but we both loved the dish!
Georgia isn't a huge sushi fan, but absolutely loves Takashi's "ridiculously tender flank steak," with a house marinade, tempura veg, and shiso pesto. I gotta say, this flank steak is the greatest. Ridiculously tender indeed, but also ridiculously flavorful, and big enough that Georgia was willing to share a few slices.
For my part, raw seafood was the game. Takashi dresses oysters in his signature sauce and negi, and they are absolutely delicious. Tonight, he was offering plump Minter oysters from Washington state. I ordered three, and loved them, though I was sad to see their kumamoto oysters (my fave) were out of stock.
The other bivalve indulgence is one of Takashi's classics––a "ceviche" of minced green lip mussels with lime and spicy Thai chilis served in the shell. The key, though, is the fat provided by a slice of avocado and a yolk of a quail egg to tame the searing spice of the Thai bird chilis. This is one of my favorite things at Takashi, and it had been a while since I'd had it! And for only $7, it's a killer deal.
I wanted to order something I'd never had at Takashi, so I threw in one of his signature sashimi courses. I'm amazed I've never tasted this fantastic thing before––Takashi takes some gorgeous, snappy sea bream and adds a tomatillo and yuzu sauce. This was so tasty I could hardly believe it, and combines something wonderfully western in the tomatillo with the Japanese tai. Fantastic!
For sushi, Takashi has some of the best deals in the country. Most places charge the same prices for one piece of nigiri, while Takashi provides you with two pieces, and every piece is pristine. I ordered:
Hotategai (scallop) dressed with Takashi's negi condiment
Toro, and some of the least expensive and most fantastic, fatty toro imaginable.
Aji (Spanish mackerel) with negi condiment.
Arctic char with Takashi's lemon and negi condiment. So good.
Madai (snapper) with yuzu kosho.
Bluefin tuna akami.
Torched salmon belly (oh. my. f*cking. god.)
Uni (not pictured, so I could eat it while the nori was still crisp. But y'all know how I felt).
I would have been happy to enjoy one piece of each of these, so I got pretty slow toward the end, feeling a shade full! However, the best was yet to come.
Takashi is responsible for maybe my favorite thing that exists the the world of food. It is truly delicious, and is probably the single dish I have consumed more than any other at any restaurant. It's so good that those in the know recognize it's nickname: "sex on rice." I do not know how Takashi created such a perfect morsel of food, but it is routinely the highlight of a meal here. Even my mother and sister, neither of whom are fans of raw fish, can't get enough of it.
Black cod nigiri is torched, topped with a secret sauce, and finished with Takashi's legendary lemon and negi condiment. The result is the most incredibly delicious thing you could ever experience. The fish melts in your mouth but has a glorious, smoky char, while the lemon and negi condiment bursts with flavor. I love this goddamn dish; it is the piece of fish that made me fall in love with sushi, and I always finish my meals at Takashi with it. Georgia, too, was happy to order her own set of two, and remarked on how incredible it is––a real compliment from someone generally averse to sushi! Had I not been so full, I would have ordered a second set.
I love Takashi. Salt Lake City is so lucky to have this restaurant, and I try to visit each time I come back. This visit was a little messier in terms of service, but the food was still just as good as it always is. And to leave with a bill half that of equivalent sushi places in other cities? Fantastic.