Saturday, August 17, 2013

Organ Meat in Manhattan - Takashi

While my wife and I were looking over the organ meat-heavy menu at Takashi in Manhattan's West Village our server asked how adventurous we are about trying different cuts of meat. The entire reason we were there was the heavy praise we'd read for the restaurant's assortment of seasoned animal parts that patrons cook themselves on grills at the tables. From chitterlings to pig's feet to hog maw I haven't shied away from trying any cuts as I've explored the soul food landscape of Memphis.

We had arrived after a long but enormously fun day of touring Central Park on bicycles followed by seeing a matinee performance of the hilarious musical The Book of Mormon by South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone on Broadway. Takashi doesn't take reservations for groups smaller than four people so when we arrived we found out our wait would be a little over an hour. We killed time by walking around the neighborhood and checking out the nearby High Line until the restaurant called to tell us our table was ready.

We had some really enjoyable dishes along with some underwhelming ones, but with some better ordering decisions the overall meal could have been much better. For appetizers we started with the beef pilaf-stuffed zucchini blossoms and the bresaola made with Kobe beef prosciutto topped with blue cheese and greens. The stuffed blossoms were great but the bresaola, while okay, was a bit of a disappoint. The taste was entirely dominated by the blue cheese. We had also thought about ordering the squid ink rice and miso-marinated sweetbreads and after seeing an order of them arrive at another table ended up wishing we had asked for them instead of the bresaola. 

Tongue three ways on the left and heart on the right. Depending on how adventurous you are the menu offers everything from traditional ribeye steak to "cow balls escargot style with garlic shiso butter." 

For our main course we ordered the beef heart and the "the tongue experience," which consists of cuts from three different parts of the tongue. It had come highly recommended, including an endorsement in author Timothy Ferriss's highly entertaining cookbook The 4-Hour Chef. And I frequently eat and enjoy tongue in lengua tacos, both from taquerias amd cooked myself at home in a slow cooker. But as delicious and tender as slow cooked tongue is, it just came across as overly tough and chewy when grilled no matter how much we played with the cooking time. On the other hand, the heart was excellent with just a quick sear on each side.

The tongue was one of the main dishes that drew us to Takashi, but with options like cheek meat and more traditional steak cuts on the menu we regretted ordering it. Our meal at Takashi ended up being an interesting experience that could have been much improved if we'd ordered a few things differently. Also, organ meats are so prevalent in Southern soul food precisely because they are cheap. I am of the firm belief that any food can be good if it is cooked correctly. Some foods just take more skill than others. But at Takashi you are cooking the meats yourself. It is hard not to feel a little ridiculous paying over $100 for two people to cook their own organ meats, especially considering the gigantic pile of offal I could throw on the grill at home after a trip to the Winchester Farmer's Market with a $100 bill.

Takashi on Urbanspoon

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