“The sashimi salad turned out to be a hit. The reason – Chef Shlomo Cohen’s sauce: sesame oil, soy, spices and yuzo – a Japanese citrus fruit that is reminiscent of a cross between a sour Clementine and a grapefruit…” Yonatan Sternberg palate is popping at Taiku in Jerusalem.
Sushi has proven to be more than a passing trend. Unlike the wrap/roll restaurant that quickly sprouted like mushrooms around town (and then closed), sushi and Asian food placed are proving stable and even in the capital Jerusalem, which isn’t exactly the culinary capital, more than a few new sushi places have opened in the last year.
As a lover of the holy fish-rice-seaweed trinity, I can only praise this. Last week I decided to pop into Taiku (Mehadrin kosher), an old-new restaurant located in the centre of the Emek Refaim strip in the German Colony. Though Taiku isn’t new (open for more than a year now) in the last few months the menu, as well as the staff, underwent a few upgrades. The restaurant brought in a new acquisition, Chef Shlomo Cohen, formerly of the gourmet kosher restaurant Lilit in Tel Aviv, who brought along his plentiful knowledge and sense of food. Cohen, who actually comes from the Mediterranean kitchen, studies and continues studying the secrets of the Asian kitchen and I hope and feel sure that with time we will see more and more of his influence on the menu.
Apropos menu, the menu at Taiku has undergone a discernable reduction, and today specializes in a wide range of rolls, combination and various versions of sushi. But, if you happened to be at the restaurant because of a sushi loving partner and this Japanese delicacy isn’t really our cup of green tea – you won’t leave hungry. The user-friendly menu also includes soup, salad, stir-fries, and fish and meat dishes with a Japanese twist.
As soon as we walked in we knew we’d come to a good restaurant. The design and the music at Taiku are clean, calm and exact. Most the restaurant’s space is devoted to tables or sofas, and in the centre is small L-shaped bar. Sitting at the bar promises an excellent view of the sushi chef’s doing their thing. In addition, Taiku boasts an impressive wine list, consisting mostly of Israeli wines and a short list of French champagnes.
The meal starts with a plate of Japanese pickles, a sweet and sour version of the Israeli pickles vegetables served at typical grill houses. We continued with a colourful plate of sushi which included a few rolls and, to my delight, one that was topped with ripe mango. The rice was perfectly prepared, sticky enough, but not chewy, and the combination of fillings were successful. The umami roll and the double tuna roll especially stood out. The last roll we tried was essentially spicy tuna on the inside and regular tuna on the outside. The umami (the name refers to the fifth taste – along with sweet, sour, bitter and salty – and is found mostly in Japanese food) combined avocado, salmon and sea bream, resulting in something reminiscent of the more familiar rainbow roll.
Upon the chef’s recommendation we also chose the chicken roll – a chicken egg roll coated in tempura – simple and tasty, but I wouldn’t have minded a crispier coating. The sashimi salad, made up of assorted lettuce, sprouts, onion and pieces of fresh fish revealed itself to be an especially interesting and well composed dish. The main reason, in my opinion, was the generous helping of amazing dressing Chef Cohen ladled on. Ponzo sauce is made up of sesame oil, soy, spices and yuzo – a Japanese citrus fruit that is reminiscent of a cross between a sour Clementine and a grapefruit. Taiku’s hamburger also turned out to be a great choice, despite not being particularly, or at all, Asian. The patty is made of entrecote meat ground in the kitchen and served on a bun with vegetables (onion, lettuce, tomato) and wasabi aioli. The patty was perfect, bearing attractive grill marks and juicy on the inside. Asian or not – it was tasty.
Taiku boasts a charming dessert menu – some made on site and some ordered for an external patisserie. Even though it is obvious that much attention is paid to using top quality ingredients, in a kosher kitchen there are things that simply cannot be substituted, and in the cream and vanilla ice cream one could occasionally sense the taste of parve.
Taiku also offers business lunches between 12:00 – 17:00 and catering services for up to 200 people.
Taiku31 Emek Refaim, JerusalemTel: 02-5665262