My search for great lunch places around the “day job” office led me to Ta-Ke this week. Now normally, I’m not a fan of strip mall sushi, especially given the fact that there is so much good sushi in Seattle and Bellevue. But I couldn’t possibly pass up the opportunity to quote my friend Linnea. She asked me if I wanted to meet for lunch and when I asked where, she responded “There is good sushi behind Taco Bell”. Just the opportunity to put that in print was enough to get me to give it a shot (because honestly, what are your thoughts when you read that line). It got even better when I realized that by “Taco Bell” she meant “Taco Time” which were separated by a half mile, but honestly not discernible when it comes to fast food Mexican. I may be the only one that thought this was humorous, but I’m willing to guess Nicky Kats is laughing right now as he’s reading this
Once I finally made it to the right sushi place behind the right taco place (still shaking my head on this one), we took a seat and started looking through the menu. We decided that for lunch, we’d keep it pretty simple and go with the basics; ordering just a couple of rolls and a couple of nigiri items. This meant a rainbow roll, spicy tuna roll, hamachi (yellowfin tuna) nigiri and sake (salmon) nigiri. We also got some hot tea which was nice given the fact that it was cold and raining when we showed up.
The restaurant definitely wasn’t packed; only three other tables in the place while we were there. But that didn’t keep our order from taking more than 15 minutes to show up. If you are out at night at a happy hour, this isn’t a big deal…if you are a business person working in Canyon Park, this isn’t really acceptable. Often you only have an hour for lunch, so a 15 minute wait means inhaling your food and running back to the office (luckily we had a little bit of flexibility…).
Finally, our order showed up. The one thing about sushi is that it is always beautifully prepared. Arguably some of the best looking food prior to eating that exists. After taking the picture, I prepared my soy and wasabi mixture, and started with the piece of hamachi nigiri. And I will say I was surprised. It was definitely quality fish, nice and tender and flavorful. One of the biggest thing about sushi is that you should be able to take two bites without having to bite/rip/tear a piece of fish, and this definitely fit that bill. When I moved to the sake it was very good as well. So I was feeling good…until I moved to rolls.
I started with the rainbow roll. A traditional rainbow roll has a variety of sashimi (i.e. maguro, hamachi, sake and uni) draped over the top of a simple roll, often filled with crab (actually often a California roll). Again, the quality of the fish wasn’t bad, but the filling of the roll was just not good. The filling consisted of imitation crab and a peppery mayonnaise. There was so much pepper flavor to it that it completely overwhelmed every single bite. And I like pepper…a lot! Just not in my sushi. It was so off-putting that it threw me off on every single bite. Then there was the spicy tuna roll which wasn’t spicy at all. I’ve had lots of spicy tuna rolls…it’s pretty much a default in Seattle (seriously…the Taphouse Grill offers spicy tuna rolls as an appetizer), and this was arguably the worst I’ve had. As I said, for starters, there was no spice. And for whatever is after starters, there was again this overwhelming taste of mayo. It was so unnatural and off-putting that it was difficult to take a bite (though hunger, and extra soy helped me overcome the taste).
Considering we had such a limited number of dishes, I think that Ta-Ke totally missed the boat. Even Linnea, who had initially suggested we go there, commented on the poor presentation of both rolls. She ended up eating a lot less than I did because even with soy, she couldn’t get past the overwhelming mayo flavor. And I’ll admit, there are a lot of unique flavors that may present themselves in sushi rolls that the traditional “I’m from Wyoming palette” is not used to. Mayonnaise should never ever ever ever be one.