One visit was for lunch, the other for dinner. I read that review by Michael Bauer, who seemed really impressed by the food there, and Takara is a newcomer to Chronicle's Top 100.
I went with R and JB there this past weekend for dinner. We arrived there at 7:30, and we had to wait for 15 minutes or so. But no one greeted us or
anything. And there was a strong unpleasant odor from cooking throughout the entire restaurant. Of course once you're inside for a couple of
minutes, your nose will get used to it, but still it's unpleasant. JB complained that the seats were uncomfortable, and that's especially true if
you are tall and sitting at a booth.
We ordered way too much. R ordered some grilled chicken on skewers as appetizers, and specifically asked them to use salt (shioyaki) and not sauce
(like teriyaki). It came as ordered, but it was virtually tasteless (little salt). I ordered a seaweed salad, which had multiple varieties of seaweed
in it, on top of some lettuce leaves. That was nice, and reminded me of the seaweed salad at Toshi's in Menlo Park. The sake selection, as noted by Mr. Bauer in his review, was very limited. I also ordered some ankimo (monk fish liver), and while
I of course knew this would not be of the quality expected in say Sawa Sushi in Sunnyvale (but at $60-100 per person before drinks/tip/tax), I didn't know I would be eating the worst ankimo in my life. When it came, it already didn't look firm. When I bit into it, it was *icy* cold inside. They replaced it, without an apology, but obviously it was the same thing from that part of the fridge that was a little too cold, just warmed a little longer before they served us. JB order a 3-item dinner, with beef
teriyaki, tonkatsu, and fried oysters. His dinner was pretty good if not a bit ordinary. R ordered ochazuke (tea poured over rice) with salmon, and
that was big. She also ordered a handful of nigiri sushi as well. I had their gomoku iron pot rice (kamameshi) dinner. Both R and I thought that
gomoku should not have meat, but Takara's version came with chicken and shrimp. It was quite good, but a little more moist than R and I had
expected. I ordered a sashimi plate, and added amaebi (they kept a tank with live prawns inside the restaurant) and toro. The toro wasn't even chutoro (medium fat), just maguro with a tiny bit more fat. But the overall quality of the sashimi was only okay, and most restaurants (e.g. Sake Bomb, Kyo-Ya in the
city, Toshi's and Masa's around here) beat Takara hands down. Oh and they forgot to bring out the chawanmushi (that Mr. Bauer loved) that was part of
our dinner, but so did we.
I understand not many Japanese restaurants do that many dishes (shabu shabu, sukiyaki, nabemono, many appetizers, chawanmushi, sushi, sashimi,
Americanized items like chicken, salmon, beef teriyaki, kamameshi, steamed baskets, etc.), and serving the uncommon kamameshi alone makes Takara worth a visit. But just remember there are many Japanese restaurants in or out of
SF that are at or above the quality of Takara.