Monday, May 21, 2012

Takara - the treasure of Japanese restaurants?

Takara is upscale Japanese restaurant located on the upper floors of les Cours Mont-Royal shopping complex. It also has a more accessible entrance located on De la Montagne street. With a trained Japanese chef behind the sushi counter, Takara is recognized as one of the more authentic of the better-known Japanese restaurants in Montreal.

My friend recommended this place to me, saying that their fish is very fresh and that their chef is Japanese. However, she also mentioned that Takara is on the pricey side, and probably not affordable to a student for a casual dinner. So what is a poor student food blogger to do? Check out their lunch selection, naturally. After ensuring that the lunch menu was affordable, I proceeded to drag my friend over to Takara for a bit of sushi.

It's probably worth mentioning that at lunch, this place is packed with business people. My friend and I got there just before the rush started, and we both felt juuuust a bit under-dressed, being completely surrounded by suits and all.

Accessibility - Grade: A
It's yet again another restaurant located downtown. I'm pretty sure you can access the restaurant through les Cours Mont-Royal, which is connected to Peel metro, thus very convenient. If not, it's a five minute walk from Peel metro from the outside.

Service - Grade: B+
Our waitress, a soft-spoken Japanese girl, was extremely polite and very smiley. Other than that, though, the service was standard. She didn't check in on us often, but then again, there were two waitresses manning 10 tables.

Ambiance Notes
The ambiance here is very nice. Simple, yet elegant. It is fine-dining after all. It's perfect for bringing dates and business partners, if all the suits around us were any indication.

Food - Grade: B+
Takara's lunch selection is pretty good. They have a variety of bento and combos, soup and salad included, for prices that range from $14 to $18.50.

Miso soup
Miso soup is just 'meh' to me, so Takara's miso didn't wow me much. It did have a nice consistency (not too salty and not too watery), and contained enough cubed tender tofu and seaweed to keep it from being bland. Still, it wasn't anything special.


Their salad was also standard. Their dressing had the sweet gingery taste typical of the salads found in Korean restos, but was mixed heavily with mayo. I'm not a mayo person, and I much prefer the salad from Yasu.

My friend ordered a bento and a New York roll. I've forgotten the name of the bento, but it's the first one on the lunch menu, priced at $14.


The bento contains a salad, tempura shrimp and veggies, terriyaki chicken, two pieces of a California roll and a few hosomaki.

I tried a shrimp tempura, which was piping hot, light and crispy. The shrimp was also pleasantly fresh and crunchy. I didn't try any of the other stuff, but my friend seemed to enjoy it.

New York roll
I was impressed by the simple yet artful arrangement of the rolls. Even if they didn't do much but stagger the positions of the rolls and throw on a bit of garnish, the rolls are still aesthetically pleasing.

The New York roll contains tempura shrimp, crab stick, lettuce, cucumber and spicy sauce. I personally prefer rolls with salmon and avocado instead of shrimp and crab, so this roll didn't appeal to me taste-wise, but it was still pretty good. The rice was perfectly seasoned, and the seaweed broke fairly easily when you bit into it. The filling-to-rice ratio was favourable, so you weren't stuck with a mouthful of rice and a tiny bit of ingredients. My only complaint is that the maki are a bit loosely rolled, so everything falls apart easily once you bite into it.

Sushi and Sashimi

I ordered the sushi and sashimi combo, since I love my raw fish so much. In terms of sashimi, this plate contains two pieces of each of the following: maguro (tuna), sake (salmon), suzuki (sea bass) and tamago (egg/omelette). It also has a maguro, sake, ebi (shrimp), suzuki, and saba (mackerel) nigiri, as well as three pieces each of the California roll and the Typhoon roll.

The fish was fairly fresh. The salmon was juicy, sweet and faintly chewy, while the tuna was soft and broke apart easily when bitten into. Mackerel is usually too fishy for my liking, but this mackerel was suitably briney, with just enough ginger, shallots and wasabi to mask the fishy flavour. My only complaint is that the slices of sashimi are so thin that I feel like I'm not getting my fill. But I guess that's just because I'm a sashimi glutton. :P

The California roll wasn't really that special, but I thought that the Typhoon was worth mentioning. It contains spicy salmon, avocado and tenkasu (that's the term that's escaped me for the better part of a year!), what I've been ignorantly calling tempura shavings all this time. Instead of dousing the salmon with a mayo-heavy spicy mayo, Takara uses a sauce that is more spicy sauce than mayo. This makes the roll feel less heavy, and actually gives it a spicy kick instead of just a slight tingle.

Takara also offers some very interesting fusion rolls on their sushi menu, if you're into that stuff.

Price - $$-$$$
For lunch, I'd say that this place is affordable for a student. My friend's bento was $14 and my sushi and sashimi plate was $17. While a bit more expensive than what other places would charge for lunch, I'd say that the quality rather warrants the price. I can't comment on dinner prices, but their sushi menu prices are definitely higher than the average sushi restaurant.

Final Grade: B
For a mainstream downtown sushi restaurant, Takara is actually pretty good. The quality and the taste of the sushi didn't blow my socks off or anything, but if you're downtown and looking for a lunch with typical sushi items and fresh fish, then Takara is worth checking out.

1455 Rue Peel, Montreal
(514) 849-9796
Takara on Urbanspoon


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