Until last week, the only reason I ever had to go to Parkland Drive was 9+Nine, one of the city's most delicious hidden gems. Now it's starting to look like that area is actually a bit of a diamond mine: Tako Sushi and Ramen is another treasure, buried in that same inconvenient geography.
We stop in for lunch on a Saturday afternoon. The restaurant is bright and clean. The decor is simple---comfortable booths line the walls, while a row of tables fill the centre of the dining room, next to a sushi bar where the chef works. Light streams colourfully through the windows at the front, working its way through transparent decals with pretty photos of food.
The menu is sprawling: sushi, sashimi and all of the other trappings, along with ramen and other noodle dishes, donburi and curries.
We decide to order from all over the menu. We start with the agedashi tofu ($4.95). We get unagi nigiri ($6.25) and two maki rolls: the green river roll ($6.75) and, on our server's recommendation, the gold dragon roll ($12.95). We also get the Hokkaido ramen ($12.95) at his instruction.
The agedashi tofu is tender and silky, coated in crisp tempura. It's cutely arranged in a little boat-shaped dish, with the dashi-based dipping sauce in the back. A drizzle of sriracha gives it a nice punch of heat and flavour that goes great with the slightly sweet sauce. Bonito flakes and shallots spinkled on the top give an extra bit of crispness that is appreciated.
The sushi is also served playfully, on a big circular tray shaped like a fish.
The gold dragon rolls are very pretty, wrapped in pink mamenori instead of regular nori; this is a nice option for someone who doesn't like the slightly saline flavour of seaweed (not me!), and it works really well on this roll, which is already packed with flavour. Smoked salmon, cream cheese and avocado give the rolls a nice creamy texture, while tempura shrimp gives it a little bit of crunch. Tobbiko adds a slightly sweet and salty tone, while a spicy sauce rounds out the flavour. It's great.
The green river rolls are a little simpler, with creamy avocado and silky eel given a touch of watery brightness with cucumber. The nori adds a nice bit of umami flavour, while the sweet kabayaki sauce drizzled over top adds a deep sweetness. With a whack of heat from the little lump of wasabi on the tray, they're basically perfect rolls.
The unagi nigiri is also really great. The eel itself is wonderful: tender and oily, beautifully cooked. The cut is a little imperfect, but the flavour makes up for it.
The ramen is the last thing to arrive. It's in a huge black bowl with a wooden ladle, steam rolling off the side. The pork bone broth is seasoned with miso and has an almost creamy feel to it, and it seems to be dotted with Shichimi Togarashi---a spice mixture with ground peppers, black sesame, flakes of nori, dried orange peel---which brings some heat to it. Three thick slices of pork belly shore up one side of the bowl, and seasoned eggs sit across from them. Marinated in soy sauce, the eggs are umami bombs: firm and slightly salty, I could eat a dozen of them. Crunchy bean sprouts and fresh mushroom also sit with the al dente noodles. I should note that the noodles are not housemade, but it's excellent ramen.
The service at Tako is also of note---it was excellent. We felt very welcome, and were given great attention by our server who happily chatted with us, and the chef, who came over to make sure we were happy with our meal. We left feeling nothing short of charmed. I can't wait to go back
Tako Sushi & Ramen
480 Parkland Drive
Mon-Sat, 11am-10pm Sun, 12-10pm