Those places -- the restaurants which you pass every day, or see, or in front of which you might stop momentarily to brush your shoulder off, and there isn't a time since foreverago that you don't remember seeing them because they have always been there, but you never notice them until...
One day you do?
When you do, when you do finally notice one of those restaurants and decide on a whim to go in and give it a chance -- because really, something this plain needs a generous chance -- you understand why it has been there so long without your ever noticing it before. You understand why a restaurant with such a nondescript storefront and a doorway that's almost hidden underneath a sign that blends into the building could remain in the same place in business for this long.
It's one of those places that's just so quietly good that it doesn't need fashion to function. No one has to talk about it because everyone just knows.
Those places are few, far between, and f'awesome.
Taka Sushi is a restaurant that I had to have seen on my regular travels in and around downtown Santa Monica, but had never consciously processed its existence. If someone were to ask me whether I know of Taka Sushi, I would have to say "yes" because the word would be somewhere in my subconscious memory, but I wouldn't have been able to tell you why I know it or where it was. Taka Sushi is one of those restaurants that just blends into the background.
Unfortunately, Taka Sushi isn't one of those restaurants, period. It has quietly existed in the base of a brick office building on the corner of 2nd Street and Santa Monica Blvd for as long as forever, but it doesn't fill out the second part of the equation.
Taka Sushi wasn't horrible, but my first experience there did make me wonder how it stays in business. The restaurant is too far off the tourist-beaten path to simply get the Promenade traffic runoff, and yet I didn't think the decor, the service, the value, or even the quality of the fish made it a standalone sushi gem for which anyone would actually make a point of driving.
We started with albacore sashimi, something familiar that I thought would be relatively simple. The slices of albacore were too thick and bulky. Each bite required careful strategy -- either an awkward maneuver of a whole, heavy slice, or haphazard shredding of fish flesh with chopsticks on a plate that was flooded with ponzu. We shared a plate that had six pieces and I think I ate one.
Nigiri sushi was better, in that hamachi , maguro, and saba didn't suffer from super-sizing, but saba looked like it had been put through a paper shredder, pulled out, and sent though again in the cross-direction. Appearance aside, the saba's flavor was noticeably stronger than I could handle, and I handle fishy, oily fish. The best fish of the meal was aji -- dark flesh and gorgeous silvery skin that belies a flavor that is much milder than saba -- but even that was mediocre relative to other aji I've had.
At least now I know that Taka Sushi is one of those those places. You know, those places that you finally try, and that try is the final.
1345 2nd Street (between Arizona and Santa Monica)
Santa Monica, CA 90401
** a year ago today, lares fit the checklist, but there was just no chemistry **
** two years ago today, it was (at the time) the only full face picture of Sarah you'd ever see **