By Suzanne Parker
Compared to the former occupants, nothing seemed scary about Takesushi, a Japanese restaurant taking over the space previously occupied by Transylvania, a Romanian one. No more cheesy vampire jokes. Then we scanned the menu at Takesushi and saw FUGU!!! That’s something scary for real—a fish that can kill you if not properly prepared. The organs of fugu, aka puffer fish or blowfish, contain a potentially lethal poison, tetrodotoxin, which must be removed by an expert to prevent dire consequences.
We must admit that fugu has been on our bucket list for a while. So when we discovered it on the menu prepared either as Fugu Usuzuka (ultra-thin sliced sashimi) or fugu tempura, we didn’t hesitate. Wanting nothing to interfere with the actual taste of the fish, we opted for the sashimi.
The menu at Takesushi is prodigious, with most every category of Japanese cuisine represented. Go heavy on the appetizers, as we did, as they are some of the real winners. Ankimo (monkfish liver) is just beginning to catch on in American Japanese restaurants, which is a treat for diners, but not so great for the endangered monkfish. It tastes like fine pâté, with just the slightest fishiness which can be tempered with a little ponzu sauce.
The perfectly executed homemade shrimp gyoza are filled with shrimp, cabbage, leek and garlic. They are lighter and more delicate than their Chinese progenitors, smaller with thinner dough.
Mushroom Shrimp Shinjo are ideal as tapas. Batter fried mushrooms are halved and filled with a chopped shrimp mousse. If you brought along your own bottle (no license yet), this would be a perfect pairing with a crisp white, or chilled sake.
The sea urchin tasted fine, but was neither live, as proclaimed in the menu, nor in its shell as pictured.
A tempura tripod was formed of very jumbo crisply battered shrimp. Very substantial for an appetizer and very shareable. Nothing not to love.
And finally-the fugu. Obviously we survived. The paper thin slices were of an exceptionally silky texture, but with a less than memorable taste. Hardly any taste at all, really. We had read that the slight residue of the poison creates a tingling sensation in the mouth and throat, but we didn’t tingle. All we got out of the experience was bragging rights.
We worked our way through a few platters of sushi and sashimi, all of it fresh and of high quality. The spicy tuna roll could have been spicier, but that is our only complaint. Otherwise, we give high marks both for quality and variety.
Unfortunately, the service and ambiance don’t measure up to the quality of the food. The only visible attempt at converting a somewhat grungy old Romanian joint into a Japanese restaurant is the installation of a sushi bar. Interior decoration was clearly not a priority. The same goes for attention to detail when it comes to the service. The servers were for the most part, friendly and got our orders right. But when one of us spilled his dipping sauce, our server looked at the puddle on the table, chuckled sympathetically, and walked away. We subsequently had to ask for extra napkins before it occurred to her to clean up the mess.
The Bottom Line
Takesushi offers a wide variety of tasty, quality Japanese fare at very fair prices. Make sure to check out their Dinner Special menu, which includes a tasting of a broad selection of some their more unusual dishes. Also look over their Daily Specials which offer the same on an individual basis. Don’t expect niceties of service or surroundings—just delicious Japanese food.
Suzanne Parker is the TimesLedger’s restaurant critic and author of “Eating Like Queens: A Guide to Ethnic Dining in America’s Melting Pot, Queens, N.Y.” She can be reached by e-mail at email@example.com.
43-46 42nd Street (between Queens Boulevard and 43rd Avenue),
Price Range: Appetizers: $5—12, Entrees: $9-24
Setting: Drab digs of former Romanian restaurant.
Service: Needs polish
Hours: Monday thru Thursday: 5:30 pm to 10 pm Friday and Saturday: 5:30pm to 11pm
Sunday: 5:30 pm to 9 pm
Alcohol: license pending, byob
Credit cards: Yes
Noise level: Acceptable
Handicap accessible: Yes