July 03, 2005

Totally Tonkatsu - Japantown

Dinner, Tonkatsu
Originally uploaded by jetalone

I've just rolled home from a feast of a feast of a late lunch, and I am beat. A good friend is in town, and we're preparing for July 4th BBQ celebratons for tomorrow. After today's earlier meat selecting and gathering needed ingredients, the troupe of shoppers decided to head over to Japantown to Takara Restaurant, one of our favorite, comfy Japanese restaurants.

Takara is tucked into the back hallways of Japantown's maze of indoor/psuedo outdoor shopping malls. It's literally set back from the rest of "restaurant row" and you probably wouldn't know of its existence if someone didn't tell you about it.

I was introduced to Takara by my friends Rio & Peter who raved about its excellent tonkatsu. I have loved Japanese food since childhood, but never understood the appeal of tonkatsu. That is, until Takara. Ever crave a crispy, yet juicy porkchop? Well that's a good tonkatsu, and Takara does it right. Damned good right! The cutlet is fried perfectly: crunchy crispy w/out a trace of greasiness, and the pork within is juicy joylicious. Not dry and lifeless of past tonkatsus I've encountered.

We've never eaten at Takara during din-din hours, and discovered their dinner portions are double lunch size. That's a fried pork fest, I tell you. With our stomachs churning, we order a slew of dishes eating with our eyes:

agedashi tofu (fried tofu w/grated daikon in a light, sweet sauce)
karaage (fried chicken)
a large platter of various sushi
shrimp & vegetable tempura
saba (grilled mackerel)
chowan mushi (savory egg custard)
japanese pickles
miso soup
kakuni (stewed fatty pork)
tonkatsu (fried pork cutlet *the star*)
and one perfectly fried shrimp head (which Rio & I shared)

After bouts of "mini breaks", we all managed to clean our plates. I even had room for a small scoop of red bean ice cream to close my door. A marathon meal and worth it. Outside of tonkatsu, I highly recommend any of Takara's seafood dishes. Their sushi especially is fresh and clean tasting.

Skip any run of the mill Japanese dishes and go for the winners. I do have to note that although the karaage was flavorful, it was missing that "something" that would make me order it again. Maybe it needed more salt or another seasoning to kick it up a bit.

I would recommend the agedashi tofu. It's a different style from most places I've ordered in that the silken, fried tofu pieces come swimming in a thick, slighty sweet sauce with shitake mushrooms, but the taste is absolutely delicious. Not heavy as one would expect from the presentation.

If you're in Japantown craving hearty Japanese fare away from the tourist trap joints near Benihana, check out Takara Restaurant. It's located in the Peace Plaza, at the foot of the Miyako Inn fronting Post St, around the corner from Mifune and Seoul Garden. Make sure to call for hours and most importantly, bring friends!

Takara Restaurant
22 Peace Plz Ste 202
San Francisco, CA 94115-3611
(415) 921-2000
Cross Street: near Geary Blvd.


in2jazz said...

That tonkatsu looks really tasty. It was my favorite dish when I visited Japan earlier this year. I will have to check this place out. Thanks!

special combo said...

You must have had many excellent tonkatsus in Japan. Yum! Yes, make sure to check out Takara when you can. Bring an empty stomach and some friends.