Monday, January 5, 2009

The Case of the Missing Tako Salad

When the best item on a menu goes m.i.a., I withhold my patronage of that restaurant. It’s only fair. And if I do continue to call and ask about the possible return of the banished dish, that means it truly made a lasting impression on me.

This was the case with the Tako Salad of Shogun in Pasadena. For some reason, one day I was told they didn't have it. I turned around and walked out. Follow-up calls proved to be in vain. Then, almost two years later, I called again and the salad miraculously resurfaced.

I recently indulged in the predominately red mixture of cucumbers slices, sprouts, sesame seeds and tentacles that burned my mouth in that welcoming, familiar way, and I relished the withering zest—the Tako Salad does not kid around. Watching the chefs toss it all in a bowl, I learn the dressing consists of the fiery Sri Racha hot sauce, chili oil, Ponzu sauce, and sometimes a squirt of spicy mayonnaise. This healthy but hot salad will wreak damage to your mouth, not your wallet: $6.50 is all it costs.

One time, when I ordered this at the sushi bar, some neophyte sitting next to me automatically asked, “Taco salad? They have that here?”

I had to explain that tako means octopus in Japanese, to which he uttered “Ohhh…,” that self-conscious groan of enlightenment. But perhaps I should have told him, “Yeah, it’s my favorite thing here, I really love the sour cream and black olives on top….”

I must admit: there is a big part of me that loathes Pasadena. I think it has always tried way too hard to imitate the uppity poshness of West L.A., but as MOST of its restaurants will reveal, it will never come close to the hallowed Sushi Row that is Ventura Boulevard, or the upscale dining monuments in West Hollywood. The fact that Sushi Roku had to sprout a location in Pasadena is annoying enough (there is also a Sushi Roku in Hollywood, but I am not a big fan of their food at all at either location; Katana in Hollywood, of the same owners, is also not too impressive on the sushi, although it has an excellent robata bar). Wokcano does not even deserve a mention in this blog, but for the sake of comparison I conjure it out of the abyss where it belongs: both locations in Pasadena and West L.A. should be shut down—the quality is terrible and the only reason the high prices are even remotely justifiable is because they close in the wee hours of the morning, but this also means you can look forward to a loud, buffoonish crowd and exhausted chefs that don’t want to take your order.

1 comment :

Unknown said...

this already *sounds* too spicy for me! hahah :D