In the window of Taki, a Japanese restaurant just off Piazza Cavour in Prati, I notice the familiar signs seen in sushi joints around the world. As impressed as I am at the techniques involved in making fake plastic models of food, these trite displays don’t usually fill me with confidence about the quality of the food served inside.
In amongst the window display however, are books and prints featuring traditional Japanese artwork. I’m particularly captivated by the picture ‘Five Pines, Onagi Canal’, which depicts a lone remaining pine tree along the Onagi waterway. In the center, two oarsmen navigate their wooden boat along the water. The print is number 97 of the collection One Hundred Famous Views of Edo by Japanese artist Hiroshige.
Hiroshige is considered the last great master of the ukiyo-e genre of art which dates from the 17th to 19th centuries. Imagine the classic and instantly recognizable The Great Wave to get an idea of the precision and style of this genre.
With signs of authenticity on display amongst the plastic tuna and salmon slices, I’m reassured that Taki might actually offer something more than the average sushi restaurant.
In fact Taki is comprised of a fine dining style Japanese restaurant and a separate ‘kaiten’ sushi bar. The menus are overseen by chef Kuniharu Okada who has nine years sushi training under his belt. In the restaurant Okada offers a complete menu of Japanese cuisine using ancient flavors to create both original and authentic dishes. If you’re thinking of making a reservation, consider asking about the seasonal multi-course tasting menu which must be booked in advance to give the chef time to prepare.
Today though, I’m just here for a light lunch at the sushi bar. Inside, colored plastic plates glide around a T-shaped conveyor belt but the place itself has been decorated with an elegant touch. The walls and furnishings are predominantly black with the differing textures of matt paint, woven place settings and a metal grid staircase coming together to create a chic dining environment.
As for the food, I selected a couple of sushi classics to get me started; sesame seed studded rolls filled with cooked shrimp, and seaweed wrapped salmon and avocado rolls. Both were delicious with the fresh and clean flavors that we’ve all come to expect from any quality sushi bar.
Each plate that passed by on the conveyor belt had clearly been created with not just taste in mind but also appearance. The salmon rolls were wider than the usual style and each disc was capped with a smoothed semi circle of cream cheese. Certainly aesthetically pleasing, but impossible to eat in one bite.
After stashing some plates of my usual favorite edamame beans I decided to sample some types of sushi which although common in the US and UK aren’t always available here.
The presence of toppings or sauces is sometimes missing in Italian sushi restaurants but I was pleased to see different types occasionally decorating the plates at Taki. I opted for a light tempura battered sushi with a spot of chili sauce followed by California Temaki with a mayonnaise based sauce.
As with everything I tried, the rolls were expertly created, satisfying and always left me wanting just a little more. For those who do manage to save a little room, it’s worth taking a look at the dessert selection too.
Taki offers a number of sweet ways to complete your meal including a couple of Italian-Japanese creations such as green tea tiramisù and sesame panna cotta. More traditional offerings range from rice with red bean jam wrapped in a cherry leaf to ginger, black sesame or green tea ice cream.
After initially feeling dubious about the plastic display sushi, I must say that I was left more than satisfied with the real food on offer at Taki. Its location relatively near the Vatican makes it a great spot for lunch after a mornings sightseeing, or for a break between browsing Prati’s shops and boutiques.
What’s more, the staff were welcoming, available and never made me feel anything but a valued customer. Taki’s mission statement is to ‘transport the heart and mind on an enchanting journey through time to a far away place’. I’m not sure if they totally managed something quite this magical, but Taki is nevertheless an elegant space to enjoy authentic, expertly created Japanese food.
Via Marianna Dionigi 54/56/60