I had to go to Sacto for a meeting at the Capitol this morning, and as a reward promised myself lunch at Zocalo (I had also promised a report to the Board...). Meeting finished, I walked through Capitol Park a few blocks up to 18th and Capitol, thinking all the while how much I hope Zocalo will be good, since work takes me that way regularly, and of course good 'sit down' Mexican restaurants in SF are near impossible to find....
I hadn't bothered to call, just looked up the address on the internet, but: oh no! my plans to take a long, late lunch were foiled: Zocalo is not yet open for business (so I guess that is why Nick didn't report on it as he said he might last weekend). Windows are still taped up, no sign, can't even peak inside...At this point I call (duh) and do get a real person, who assures me that they are opening next week. Sigh.
Oh well, next trip. but now it is getting warm, I've walked a ways for nothing, and I am starting to feel crotchety. And of course since I wanted Mexican I think nothing else will do, certainly NOT the Chipotle Grill next door (which is doing an incredible business. but hey, all those newish State Buildings and not too many other restaurants in the immediate vicinity, so I am not surprised. I predict Zocalo will be a hit whether good or not...)
I'm hungry. I can't remember the name of a single place to eat that Chowhounds have recommended in midtown. Ok, I can cope: I decide to go back and retrieve my car from the Garage and drive aimlessly through neighborhoods I used to know much better 20 years ago, and see if anything strikes my fancy. There must be Mexican here somewhere.... I drive down S...and before long, I see Ernesto's. A Mexican place! yeah! but somehow, Nick's writing comes into my head: Isn't Ernesto's the one place he would tell me not to eat?
I debate whether my memory is correct, (it is) and I notice the large groups walking into Ernesto's. No, I don't want to share my lunch with someone's birthday Fiesta...so Ernesto's is out....
Fortunately, however, I pull over to continue the debate with myself, and end up a block or so further down, and see Taka's right on the next corner. It is packed. What the heck, it isn't Mexican, but I am hungry enough to ignore that craving.
Taka's is small with a sushi bar plus about ten tables inside and a few outdoors tables in the shade as well. The lunch crowd is thinning a bit. I take a table, enjoy reading the menu. The menu notes that this is "California Style" sushi, and indeed, several of the specials seem to follow a less traditional mode, and have strange names ("Viagra Special", "Better than Sex", well: you get the idea...) In addition to some standard Japanese lunch specials, there is a reasonably long sushi list, a nice selection of yakatori dishes, and a number of those specials on a whiteboard on the wall. All of the staff are young and Japanese and hip in appearance (purple hair, T-shirts, piercings...).
I decide to go with the California style flow, and order:
grilled asparagus in a garlic lemon sauce, with mayo for dipping: yumm. Spears are wider than I prefer, but it is grilled perfectly, nice and garlicky. (from the specials board).
'bbq'd Albacore': about five pieces of sashimi grade white albacore tuna, lightly coated with a dryish, spicy, tomato-based bbq sauce or rub, and seared, but still raw on the inside. double yumm. (also from the specials board).
Bowl of rice on the side.
small Asahi: perfect for the hot day (though Taka is airconditioned)
1 ball each of mango and chocolate mochi ice cream: ditto.
Total bill: $27 with tax and tip, so I spent a bit more for more food than I ordinarily would at lunch, but hey: it was work related....
Service is friendly, very efficient, and at least three different people come up to ask me how I like the food and if they can bring me anything else. It would be hard not to like the place with such friendly and effienct servers, even if the food wasn't tasty.
Recommended! I'll be back.....the search for good Mexican is never ending, but Taka's was a nice detour.
Zocalo (not yet open): 1801 Capitol Ave, Sacto
Taka's Japanese Cuisine and Sushi
1730 S Street