[Pigging by Wilfrid: July 16, 2012]
Last week, I joined a party of grizzled experts for dinner at popular Greenwich Village yakiniku Takashi.
A yakiniku is a grill joint -- as opposed to a yakitori, which is a grilled chicken joint. So now you know. Fortunately this wasn't one of the hottest evenings of the last ten days, because this has hardly been the season for sitting over a grill.
One appetizer was under-seasoned beef tartar with a quail egg on top (or, in fact, slithering off the top and off the wooden board, onto the table; oops). The other appetizer was one of the best bites of the evening, uni with a hint of wasabi, ready to be wrapped in a thin slice of chuck flap and seaweed and eaten as a small handroll.
I can't swear the uni was Japanese, but it had a brininess I find lacking in the Californian. I may be wrong. Good it was, although together with the wasabi and seaweed it completely obscured any flavor from the meat.
The main event began with some "first" stomach (the stomachs here are all numbered), apparently raw but in fact "flash-boiled." It was served cool, and was as dry and chewy as you could wish, if not more so. I was reminded of a killer tripe salad I ate at Hospoda last year, in a regretful way.
The casseroled beef tendon cheered me up. This was another contender for best of the night; rich, thickly gravied, incredibly tender. Not as terrifyingly hot as the steam made it look.
On the side, meantime, some pleasingly squishy rice bombs, prickly with Korean seaweed. Other than a few salad leaves, this was our vegetable for the evening.
The chef's selection of offals and organ meats featured liver, sweetbreads, and a couple more stomachs (second and third?). Our group was a group of seven, and immediately looked to me like this wouldn't feed seven.
After the lengthy post-appetizer interval, our server also delivered several beef cuts. In addition to three kinds of tongue, there was skirt steak, ribeye, and a "between-the-rib" short rib cut. We set to work, grilling and turning. We tried flash-grilling the tongue and it was tough. We tried grilling it for a long time, and it was less tough but not very tasty. This may be the first time tongue ever disappointed me.
The short rib cut and the skirt steak were, on the other hand, excellent: quick to cook, melting, buttery, but not enough of any of them. There was a bunch of sauces too.
We also did well with the sweetbreads, although it was hard to caramelise them without them also sticking to the grill. I liked one of the other stomachs; the liver was tough and tasteless, like the tongue.
Finally, a server presented one of the specials, a kind of "andouillette" which turned out strongly to resembles longaniza. The server grilled it herself, then placed it on a board and carved it.
I think we'd have done better ourselves, because it was very underdone, the center of the sausage still raw and speckled with uncooked fat.
A curious place, then, however popular. A kitchen which doesn't cook much, but still takes a long time to send food out. A menu which makes it hard to know if you've ordered enough (we thought we'd over-ordered, but everyone left hungry). And a leap into the unknown when it comes to grilling: I've cooked enough meat over the years to have a sense as to whether cuts need quick or long-cooking, but we seemed to get it wrong often enough here.
As compensation, a few bites here and there which were really good. Not sure if that's enough for $90 a head (including tax and top, and around three beers apiece).