I won't have an opportunity to cook this weekend as I will be out of town most of Saturday and Sunday, but I did get to start my weekend with a fabulous meal, which makes me a little less sad about the recipes I've had to put on the back burner for the time being. I've been craving sushi for a while so I was thrilled when my husband was up for a visit to Takara. Takara was voted Madison's favorite Japanese restaurant by Isthmus readers in 2008, so I knew we were in for a treat. I look through the Eats section on the Isthmus website multiple times a week looking for new restaurants to try and have great faith in the reviews that Isthmus staff and readers provide.
And I was not disappointed! To drink I chose the Okunomatsu sake, one of the many sakes on the extensive drink menu. The sake was just as the menu described "Fruity and light with a deep richness and mild aroma" and paired well with sushi. Takara has a large selection of sake accompanied by great descriptions to help sake novices, such as myself, select a sake to go with their meal.
We started the meal with pork gyoza, pan-fried dumplings. The dumplings were a nice start to the meal, but nothing particularly extraordinary. My favorite, and quite unhealthy, Japanese appetizer is shrimp and vegetable tempura, but I wanted to try something different this time. I'm certainly not sorry I had the gyoza, but I'll try another appetizer next time I visit.
But the sushi was amazing. My husband and I got two rolls to share-the Rainbow Roll, a California roll wrapped with tuna, salmon, white fish, shrimp and tobiko in a jumbo roll, and the Iso Fantastic, Tuna, salmon, yellowtail, avocado, cucumber, tobiko wrapped with white seaweed. Despite the ridiculous name, the Iso Fantastic roll was quite good, but the Rainbow Roll was even better. Both rolls rely on the quality of the ingredients for flavor instead of sauces, seasonings, or condiments and taste like the ocean (not fishy) and pure freshness. Although I'm no sushi expert, it isn't hard to identify a difference in the quality of the fish between restaurants and Takara uses high-quality, extremely fresh seafood. It was almost as good as Sushi Muramoto, my favorite sushi place, and better than Ginza, who seems to be a step below on the freshness/quality scale, although still provides a great meal. If you like sushi, you won't be disappointed by Takara. If you're new to sushi, Takara is great place to start-the menu has a page with pictures of many common sushi ingredients that novices may not be familiar with. For those who don't like sushi, there is an extensive menu of hibachi, teriyaki, and bento combination boxes.
Takara is located at 315 State Street and 696 W. Whitney Way in Madison, WI. Hours are 11:00am-10:30 pm Monday-Saturday (closed 2:30-4:30) and 1:00-10:30pm Sunday. Visit the Takara website for more information and menus.