Sherman's Food Adventures: Takenaka Uni Bar

Takenaka Uni Bar

I've been a fan of Takenaka since the beginning of his food truck days.  Actually, even when he was with Suika.  His food has always been top quality coupled with on point execution.  It was almost shocking that he was able to produce such high-end eats from a food truck!  Well, that started to change when he opened up his onigri spot and it has gone even up another level with Takenaka Uni Bar in the former location of Rodney's Oyster in Gastown.  They didn't have to do much in the way of renovations as the spot doesn't look worse for wear with a rustic seafood theme.

We were there to try as many of their signature items as we could being with some small plates including the Uni Toast.  This featured a toasted white bread finger topped with uni, negitoro and ikura.  Nothing complex about this, but it was ultimately delicious.  The simplicity allowed the ingredients to shine including the sweet Hokkaido uni, buttery tuna belly with bright green onion and the pops of brininess from the ikura.  Another dish we had was the Hotate Carpaccio where the sliced scallop was buttery soft and sweet with the hint of the sea.  It sad atop mesclun greens and onion.  On top, we found wasabi mayo, tobiko, garlic chips, kaiware and house-made dressing.  I really enjoyed the scallops, but maybe there was a little too much going on on the plate.

To make sure we got enough Uni, I ordered both the Uni Temaki and Uni Wagyu Nigiri.  Just by presentation alone, both the temaki and nigiri looked super appetizing.  Due to the high-quality ingredients, these were utterly delicious and supremely fresh.  The uni was silky smooth and sweet while the thin slice of Wagyu was buttery and required little-to-no chewing.  Loved that for the temaki, we had little soy squeeze capsules.  We could customize how much flavour we wanted to add.  Hidden beneath the uni and ikura, there was buttery negitoro with some sushi rice.

Keeping the uni train going, we had the Uni Chawanmushi with ikura and shiso.  This was clean-tasting where the ingredients were at the forefront but also in balance.  Although the shiso had the initial impact with its usual herbaceousness, the sweetness of uni and brininess of the ikura announced themselves shortly after.  The egg custard itself was smooth and silky with minimal moisture.  For some odd reason, I also ordered the Seasoned Quail Egg topped with chili oil condiment.  Somewhat like a mini-ramen egg, the quail egg was complimented well by the mildly spicy and smoky chilis and oil.

Adding more sushi rice to our meal we had 2 Onigiri including the Black Cod & Ikura and the Uni & Real Crab Meat.  These were quite large and plump with warm seasoned sushi rice.  The black cod was buttery soft and well-seasoned being sweet and savoury.  The pops of ikura added brininess.  As for the crab & uni, it was more subtle and naturally sweet.  The soft springy texture of the crab and the creaminess of the uni made each bite rather tasty.  Only thing I would've liked to see is the sushi rice be a touch drier.

Continuing with Wagyu, we were served the DIY Wagyu BBQ with a hot stone puck.  The trick here is to cook the meat quickly as the stone cools down fast.  So we got right to work and was able to cook all the slices of beef.  Mind you, the second round of beef did not sear up as well.  Anyways, the beef was super buttery and flavourful.  The sweet and spicy dip helped balance off the savoury heaviness of the meat.  But really, the meat was marinated enough that it could stand on its own.

Another Takenaka classic is their Aburi Sushi.  We ended up with the Omakase Aburi Sushi featuring seared salmon with a variety of condiments on top.  I thought these were pretty good where they were larger than most other versions.  The rice was warm (but a bit soft) and the sauces on top were quite tasty.  Something that seemed rather bougie was the Lobster & Chips.  So really, it was a whole lobster tail, cut in half, and deep fried in tempura batter (maybe the batter could've been cooked a bit longer).  This was served with crispy fresh-cut fries.  The lobster was cooked perfectly retaining its moisture while having a rebound texture.

The most epic dish we had was the Large Takenaka Luxury Seafood Platter consisting of 5 kinds of sashimi, Hokkaido uni tray, a dozen oyseters and all the fixins'.  Yah, this was large and with the dry ice, it was also showy.  But looking past that, the components were high-quality.  The royal miyagi oysters were shucked properly and were sweet with a certain creaminess.  Sashimi had a nice sheen with a taste of the sea.  There was soy and real wasabi as well as hot sauce for the oysters.

Back to the cooked stuff, we had 3 dishes including the Grilled Pork Cheek, Manga Wagyu Hamburg Steak and Grilled Black Cod.  Meaty with a buttery rebound texture, the pork cheek was exactly how we like it.  It was nicely grilled with caramelizaiton on the outside and topped with a salty green onion and white onion relish.  It was pretty pungent.  Looking like a meat on a bone, the hamburg steak was medium-dense and tender with a noted beef flavour.  It was beautifully seared on the outside.  As for the black cod, it was buttery and flaky with a fermented saltiness from the miso marinade.  On the side, we found a creamy and sweet uni sauce.

We moved onto the carb portion of our meal with a rice dish first.  It was the fully-loaded Luxury Deluxe Seafood Bowl sporting uni, negitoro, herring roe, real crab, cuttlefish, boiled shrimp, baby sardines, ikura, mountain yam and shiso.  Now if you think that was a lot of components, try mixing it together and taking a spoonful...  Yes, it was full of different seafoody flavours that were sweet and briny.  Personally, I could've done without the mountain yam since it made the bowl of rice sticky.

With yet another carb, we had the Lobster Uni Ramen.  This featured a rich chicken soup with the creamy sweetness of uni.  It included a whole lobster tail, chashu, seasoned egg, bamboo shoots and green onion with thin noodles.  Other than the same tempura lobster as the previous dish, the main draw here was the soup.  It was so silky and naturally sweet.  It would be shame to not drink the whole thing!  The noodles were not quite al dente due to the thinness, but it wasn't mushy.   Egg was perfect with a custardy centre and plenty of flavour from the mirin.

As for sweets, we were served 3 dishes in the Salt Caramel Pudding, O5 Matcha Panna Cotta and Chocolate Terrine with Earnest Tahitian Vanilla Bean Ice Cream. Of the 3, my favourite was the salt caramel pudding as it was definitely sweet and salty while being creamy.  The terrine was good too but maybe because of the ice cream.  Panna Cotta was a bit stiff and could've used more matcha.  Overall, the food at Takenaka Uni Bar was fantastic.  Sure, some things could be more refined, but in general, we enjoyed every dish.  Prices are on the higher end, but the quality of the ingredients reflect that.

*All food and beverages were complimentary for this blog post*

The Good:
- High quality ingredients
- Delicious
- Nice vibe

The Bad:
- Sushi rice could be a bit drier
- Tempura batter could be fried a bit longer


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