Takara Japanese Cuisine & Sushi
309 E Lakeside, Coeur d'Alene
From my experience, sushi makes for one of the best pre-night-out-on-the-town meals possible. It’s not really a hot idea to eat anything too heavy duty before indulging in a night of hi-balls and disco dancing. No one enjoys feeling painfully bloated while attempting the Electric Hustle. Sushi is light in substance, yet filling, and all that sticky white rice will help soak up some that booze you’ll be enjoying later in the evening. Plus, eating sushi with some close friends can be a ritualistic, bonding affair, a relaxing way to wind down and let the week’s chaos dissolve like wasabi into soy sauce. Takara Japanese Restaurant, located on Lakeside Avenue, is the perfect way to dine before venturing out to explore the downtown Coeur d’Alene nightlife.
I remember when Takara first opened its doors many moons ago – 1992 to be exact. Sushi in Idaho? What a shock! I’d imagine that at the time, a very miniscule percentage of locals had ever even tried sushi. My family certainly never did. Raw fish? I don’t think so. We were meat and potatoes kind of people, none of that frou-frou California stuff. In fact, it wasn’t until I was in college that I was invited to tag along with a few new friends for lunch at Takara. I really wanted to be cool and make a good impression on these folks and didn’t let on that my tummy was making flippy-floppy at the mere thought. I knew I was just going to have to go for it.
So I watched the others do the ritual: pour a little soy sauce in the cute little dish, take some of the green stuff and stir it in with your chopstick. Gingerly pick up the piece with your sticks and dip it carefully in the sauce and pop it in your mouth! I held the big, pink slab of raw salmon meat and seasoned rice under my nose for moment: Wait! No fishy smell at all! And in my mouth it went. The first thing that hit me was the intense flavor of the wasabi. The fish itself didn’t seem to have a strong taste at all, certainly tasting nothing like the deep-briny fish taste I was expecting. No, it was very mild and the texture was buttery and delightful. I did it! I tried a piece of the spider roll and was surprised that I even liked the flavor of the nori (seaweed), another food I would have never thought would ever make it past my gullet.
Since then, Takara has been a regular haunt of mine. I love the authnticity and ambience of the small curtained-off private dining booths (wear clean socks – shoes have got to come off to sit in there). The waitresses are always prompt, friendly, brunette and gorgeous. In all the years, I’ve dined there, I don’t believe I’ve ever had a snarly server. The only occasional flub has been when the entrees are served long before the sushi makes it to the table, but I’ve come to learn this is a fairly normal thing for a sushi place. Sushi is a fine art that takes time, and the knife masters at Takara have never disappointed this hungry customer.
Normally a small Nigiri assortment is enough to satisfy me – this platter usually includes the classics: unagi (eel), hamachi (yellowtail), sake (salmon), ebi (shrimp), maguro (tuna), and tamago (scrambled egg), along with a spicy tuna roll. If the mere thought of actual sushi turns you the color of a ripe avocado, there are certainly other options on the menu. Their Teriyaki Chicken is legendary, so tender and juicy and dripping with thick, tangy sauce. Also craveworthy is the Tonkatsu, which is a fried, breaded pork loin served with ketchupy katsu sauce. Friends from Seattle and elsewhere have told me the best Tempura shrimp and vegetables they’ve ever had was from here. Meals come with the extra benefit of miso soup, a green salad with gingery dressing, and plenty of white rice. If you still possibly have room, they offer several specialty desserts inluding the magical green tea ice cream.
You will leave full, but you will walk some of it off on the way to your first night spot of the evening – by the time you get there you’ll be ready to have a cocktail and watusi the night away.
"More Than Just Raw Fish" - Spokane 7
Taste Everything Once