I guess that I am pretty lucky to be able to say that I live within walking distance of three sushi restaurants. I call them The Good, The Bad, and The Trendy. I have already posted about Taiko, the cheapest (and worst) of the three, aka, “The Bad”. If you read that post, you know it’s not all bad, but it’s not all good either.
This post, however, is dedicated to “The Good”: TAKAO. I should probably call it the Amazing, but I don’t want to just give a gushing review.
When you first walk into TAKAO, you might not be impressed. It’s very small - there is the sushi bar in the back left corner, and a few tables around it - definitely not much seating. There is not a lot going on in the decor department, either. And even though it’s not actually in a strip mall, the feeling inside is definitely “strip-mall-esque”.
But this is surprisingly great news! Any SoCal-based sushi-lover knows this simple fact: all of the best sushi restaurants are unassuming little places located in strip malls. Yes, it’s true. Ask any Angeleno his favorite sushi spot, and he’ll say, “Well, you’d never guess it, but it’s that little place in the strip mall on corner of such and such streets.” There is, of course, a reason that these little sushi bars get away with this - the food speaks for itself. And TAKAO is no exception.
We may not have any strip malls in Brentwood, but we do have a very nice, tree-lined boulevard called San Vicente, packed with shops, restaurants, and cafes (okay, Starbucks). This is where TAKAO has made its home, to the delight of those of us who live nearby.
The great thing about the food here, is that it’s both authentic and creative. You can get the typical rolls, sushi, or sashimi, or you can partake in their specials. The specials are pricey, but so unbelievably good that you have to get a couple of them if you are there. They have everything from halibut cheek tempura to Wagyu beef sushi sold for $18 per ounce. I’m sure these are great, but my husband and I have been unable to venture away from their amazing raw fish.
In the few times that we have been there (it’s a wallet-buster, so we have to save up each time), we have ordered a few of their recurring specials, and I believe we have figured out what we like the best. We started out the night in our typical fashion: house sake for me (this is a little over-priced, but I can’t eat sushi without sake), a Kirin for the hubby, and two bowls of miso soup. Next came the first of the three specials that we ordered: tuna sushi and avocado wrapped in soy paper with three dipping sauces. The sauces were a dallop spicy mayo, a sweet red sauce, and a wasabi sauce. I really enjoy the soy paper here, because it’s speckled with black and white sesame seeds, which adds a nice, subtle flavor. This cold tuna sushi special was good, but I am not sure that I would order it again. It’s a very small dish, and not the most creative. Next time, I would probably substitute it with a regular tuna roll, which would be about half the price of this dish.
Our second special could have no substitutions: seared albacore in a light soy-based sauce, covered with chopped green and white onions. Each of the seven slices of fish had a tiny dot of fresh, grated ginger. Need I say more? Definitely order this.
Our third choice was the spicy tuna extravaganza - this was truly a special dish where you get to build your own roll. What you get: a mound of spicy tuna, cucumber sticks, Japanese radish sprouts, chopped green and white onions, roe, wasabi, and hot sauce. You also get two ways to wrap this all up: lettuce or nori seaweed. This is so perfect for my husband and me - I love seaweed, and he hates it. This special is so fun and so delicious, it really makes the night. It would have been a great way to end the night, too, except we needed just one more thing. We went back to the menu, and decided on two shrimp tempura hand rolls, in soy paper, and asked our waitress to please make them spicy. It took about ten minutes to get these, and they must have been frying them to order, because they came warm. These rolls were truly wonderful: fresh shrimp, an asparagus spear, a bit of rice, and a touch of the spicy mayo, all wrapped up in that amazing soy paper.
All in all, we had a great time and great food. It’s an expensive indulgence, and I do wish we could go more often. However, it’s nice to know that we have this little neighborhood sushi bar for special occasions.
TAKAO is located in Brentwood at 11656 San Vicente Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90049
Phone: (310) 207-8636
Note: If you want to eat at TAKAO, I highly recommend getting reservations. They don’t need to be made weeks in advance or anything. In fact, we made ours just a few hours before we showed up, and that was on a Saturday night. Still, without them you may not be able to get a seat at either a table or the coveted sushi bar.