Sushi, how I worship thee. Delicate, rich, spicy and smooth- oh the many ways a rolled-up concoction of goodies can so easily delight me. There are very few cuisines I can take pleasure in devouring at any given moment of the day. Specialty sushi rolls; why, I can never resist the warm, gooey cream cheese, crisp asparagus, velvety avocado and fresh Ahi, salmon, shrimp, and scallops galore. Sushi is an edible art form that I have become so very fond of in my educated eating years.
|Photo courtesy Takara|
Just a couple of weeks ago, I had the ultimate sushi privilege bestowed to me when I was invited to a generous ten course tasting at the brand new, Takara Sushi and Sake Lounge in New Tampa. Having visited this swanky spot once before, I knew I was in for a lovely evening of excellent Japanese seafood and sushi.
Upon entering the building located in a busy plaza off of Bruce B. Downs Blvd., I was reminded of the hip ambiance that would likely enchant the eyes of the young and the older. An industrial exposed ceiling with Japanese style lanterns hanging low, the dimly lit dining room also features vibrant red accents throughout. Aesthetically appealing is quite the understatement.
Photos courtesy Takara
Once I sat down to a table of twelve, I was in anticipation mode for the first course to sit before me. And then…I waited no more- White Fish Ceviche came shiny and bright with a citrus zing. The fish, insanely fresh, was flawlessly cooked in the tangy lime juices and complemented with a kick from cilantro, red onion and pepper. Having only eaten ceviche in Spanish restaurants, this was a wonderful first impression to the Japanese rendition of one of my most-loved dishes.
Let it be known. I detest tofu. There, I said it. I love numerous dishes in which it is often served but I always, without fail, toss it to the side. Takara changed me-if only temporarily; they changed me. Avocado and Tofu Salad was colorful with its perfectly ripe tomatoes thrown in the mix. Colorful and surprisingly, extremely tasty. With a honey miso dressing liberally drizzled on top, I couldn’t say no to the sweetly dressed white blocks of soy.
Dynamite mussels were delivered next. The name was well suited; for these little ocean dwellers were as delicious as they were pretty. Baked with mayo, scallions, smelt roe and wasabi, there was a world of bold flavors in just one big bite. Possibly my least favorite shellfish (side note: I love all shellfish), this was my favorite way I’ve ever eaten the gleaming black sea suckers.
Hooray! The spicy tuna bowl, I mean, spoon, had arrived! A lover of sushi-grade tuna and anything spicy, I knew this dish would be rather splendid. Spicy tuna, mango, avocado, smelt roe and scallions came carefully piled high on a spoon. With one large and luscious chomp, I was in seafood splendor. The sweet mango contrasted so heavenly with the fiery tuna and creamy, mild avocado. This tasting was so divine, I recently went back to Takara and ordered the full plate. Verdict: A spectacular creation indeed.
I was beginning to wonder how much more I could ingest. Before I could doubt my consumption abilities any longer, a cocktail of Sambuca shrimp was served. Tender shrimp tossed in a red curry coconut milk and prepared with fennel, shallots and red pepper, this dazzling tasting was screaming with fun on the tongue.
Whew. Alas, the appetizer portion of the evening was complete. However, we had only just begun. To start our sampling of Takara’s entrees, Miso Seabass was making its grand entrance to our wide eyes. Typically, I am hesitant to order fish at a restaurant (other than a select few) but I had no reason to worry. Once I sunk my teeth into this seabass, it was evident just how fresh this fish truly was. Delicately seasoned and sauced with seasame soy, the ravishing filet was not outdone by its surrounding components. Served over white rice and asparagus, it was a mini meal I would rank in my top three of the night.
Japanese short ribs made their presence known with a meaty aroma conjuring my nose. Fall apart tender, I was thrilled to have some succulent land meat to feast on. With grilled onions, carrots and rice, this was a dish I’d label comfort food.
Without further a due, a massive plate of sushi was sparkling with vibrant colors and sheens. I simply did not know where to begin. Because all of these sushi rolls were absolutely, breath taking, fantastic, I will give you a brief rundown from the lavish spread. The unsurpassed roll of the night would definitely be the Torched Salmon Roll made with Tempura shrimp, crab delight, avocado & cucumber, rolled in seaweed & rice, topped with torched salmon, tempura jalapeno, served with eel sauce & spicy mayo. They had me at Tempura Jalapeño.
Another crowd favorite was the Jabadahut Roll made with Tempura grouper, avocado, red onion, cucumber, crab salad, rolled in seaweed & rice, topped with tuna, served with tempura scallops & crab salad with eel sauce, yum yum sauce & sweet chili sauce. This roll is their “mack daddy” creation and understandably so. Did you see all of those ingredients stuffed inside and poured on top?
Photo courtesy Takara
The most attractive roll of the night goes to the Naruto Roll. Prepared with Tuna or salmon, crab delight, asparagus, wrapped in cucumber and served with ponzu or vinaigrette sauce, this roll showed off a rainbow of shades. Also a healthy option, it can be eaten in the masses without all of the gluttonous guilt.
In serious contrast to the healthy Narturo Roll, the DJ roll is one fried and fancy, mouth-watering delight. With praise all around, this roll is made with Crab salad, avocado, cucumber & cream cheese, wrapped in soy paper & rice and served panko style with eel sauce and yum yum sauce. Stellar, simply stellar.
Photo courtesy Takara
There were a solid four to five other rolls that were all delectable as well. Honestly, I’ve never been so equally impressed with a sushi plethora like this one. Not one roll would I deem average. Though I was holding my stomach in despair after so regrettably taking on seven to eight pieces, I knew the show was not over. A masterpiece of warm, fried goodness and cold creaminess had just arrived. Tempura Fried Ice Cream, my favorite kind of food enemy. Too decadent to despise, this indulgent dessert consisted of Vanilla ice-cream wrapped in pound cake & a tempura batter served with chocolate, blackberry & raspberry sauces. Let’s just say this sweet finish has been in my dreams every night since we met.
Takara Sushi had me in awe from beginning to end. I walked into the eatery believing I would only be tasting an array of sushi rolls. Having the opportunity to try out many of their non-sushi selections made for a rich and diverse smorgasbord of treats. This is a joint I have already re-visited and will continue frequenting for as long as I reside in Tampa. They surpassed my expectations (with stiff competition down the street, mind you) with both their bar none service and fabulous fare. Impressed? Oh, yes.