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Togetsu (SEA) thoughts

David Sloo | Mar 2, 200607:53 AM

There are scanty postings here on the Pacific Northwest board for Togetsu, at 217 Yesler. Is it usually awful, or is it just under-reviewed?

My experience last night was odd but inexpensive and not wholly unpleasant. For USD 18, I was served a seemingly endless assortment of food. Some of it was acceptable, and some of it was quite good, and all of it seemed well prepared. And the place was essentially empty.

The meal started with a straightforward cucumber tsukemono, with sesame. The server told me that I would be waiting half an hour -- presumably for chawan mushi, but maybe also for other preparation. After 20 minutes, the food arrived. I'm not sure I remember everything:

2 ebi and 1 carrot tempura, light batter, clean, and the carrot still slightly crisp.

California maki, which was notable for having pleasantly sour sushi rice that wasn't warm. I have been finding more and more warm sushi rice recently, and it sogs the nori and is generally something for which I would like to reinstate the pillory. I didn't finish the California roll at Togetsu, but not because it was awful -- the crab was light but clean flavored, the nori and cucumber both surprisingly bitter -- maybe the strongest flavors of the meal.

Sashimi of maguro and hirame. Well cut; daikon underneath still crisp. With a sprig of curly parsley.

Another tsukemono, I think maybe with mussels, tiny green beans, and red pepper.

Oden with lotus root, potato, bamboo shoot.

A skewer of tonkatsu with onion, also very clean like the tempura.

A tsukune and a couple pieces of spicy chicken thigh yakiniku, maybe.

An unsweetened and unassuming slice of tamagoyaki, rolled omelet.

A bit of edible salmon. At home in California, it would be pretty good, so I assume by your high local standards it would rank "edible; fit for human consumption".

Miso-dashi soup with a piece of tofu and a couple of pieces of abura-age. Abura-age is tofu frozen, then fried. The soup was oily but hot and okay.

Chawan mushi, seafood custard. Like everything else in the meal, the flavors were light: the dashi flavor in the custard gentle, even the pieces of shrimp seemed to be reticent about giving out flavor.

And surprisingly good, hot rice.

The presentation (I know, chowhounding is about the food) was careful but modest: separate sauce for tonkatsu and tempura, pleasant chawan mushi crockery, service attentive but retiring. Even so, deep flavor wasn't there -- it was like an echo of an impressive kaiseki, or a lovingly sliced, austerely prepackaged version.

And there were five people in the restaurant throughout my meal: server, cook, me, and the couple a few booths away. I felt like I was eating in a science fiction story, or maybe in a Kurosawa movie, wherein no one goes to restaurants anymore. Usually, I'm as scared of empty restaurants as a health inspector, but this was simply quiet and okay.

Of course, I'll go to Maneki or to Shiki again and again; I'm not sure I'll go back to Togetsu, but I'm not sure why not. I mean, at under 20 bucks a head, why not get weirded out and served a whole array of different dishes?

Togetsu, Kyōto cuisine, 217 Yesler, (206) 623-9377.

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