Mr. Taka

Mr. Taka makes some of my favorite bowls of ramen. My recommendation is the spicy miso, which always gives me the unusual feeling of being both totally stuffed full of food and ready to jump up and get moving. The “stamina” ramen is also great. Both come with a generous helping of delicious ground pork, culprit number one for the totally full feeling.

The thing I love about this place is that each individual part of the bowl of ramen is right up there with the best in its category. Particularly off-the-charts is the beautiful chasu, perfectly seasoned and perfectly charred for the quintessential melt-in-your-mouth experience.

I find it really hard to resist ordering an Orion on draft when I’m eating a bowl here—I love food that goes hand-in-hand with a particular drink and these two are hard to separate now in my mind! Particularly on a crisp New York winter day, there’s nothing in the city I crave more than that pair.

Right next door to Mr. Taka is the excellent Bluestockings Bookstore, by the way, if you feel like grabbing a book after lunch!

Mr. Taka 170 Allen St, New York, NY 10002

Try: spicy miso or stamina ramen with a frosty glass of Orion

Sushi Take

The ika nigiri at Sushi Take in Ginza, Tokyo was one of the most surprising things I’ve eaten in a long time. Ika in all of its forms is high on my list of favorites at sushi restaurants, and so I have had many types and many preparations over the years, but here it was something truly special. It had the signature gentle crunch of ika and that subtle, sweet flavor, and yet it tasted like something new in a way I can’t define. Eating it, early on in the meal, was the moment my love for Sushi Take went to the next level. When my course ended, there were lots of things I asked for extra portions of, but top of the list was humble old ika. Isn’t that perfect?

The vibe in the restaurant is just the way I like it. It’s particular but not fancy, serious but not stuffy, relaxing but not ordinary. Sushi Take runs a staggered seating system rather than set times for the whole counter to start eating. This means things feel more personal and flexible than at some other sushi restaurants. Despite the top-level food, the restaurant feels more like a neighborhood joint than a sushi temple. The signboards behind the counter indicate today’s menu, but also a deeper connotation that this is place where it’s fine to ask for and discuss what you want to eat rather than simply leaving it to the chef, as at most other high-flying Tokyo sushi restaurants.

Chef Fumie Takeuchi is a delight to chat with. We chatted about various things—despite the language barrier with each of us trying our non-native tongues—and she and her sous chef gave me a couple of nice recommendations for bars and lunch spots. Delightfully, the restaurant shares its floor in an unassuming Ginza building with not one, not two, but three karaoke bars, and we shared some laughs at the… ambitious singing that occasionally made its way through the walls. See what I mean about a neighborhood vibe?

This is a restaurant that really suits me. The nigiri is really among my favorite in Tokyo. The taste of the food, the atmosphere, the personalities of the chef and her staff, and the feeling of intentionality and ethos behind the restaurant all combine to make this a place that I remember with the fondest memories.

Sushi Take (鮨竹) 7 Chome-6-5 Ginza, Chuo City, Tokyo 104-0061

Last visited: Early summer, 2019

Third Culture

I won’t say how many times I’ve visited Third Culture Bakery‘s Berkeley showroom. As addictions go, it’s not the worst one to have. It has the most delightful sweets, the happiest vibe, and some fun and surprising drinks to boot.

The first time I had a Third Culture mochi muffin was at Asha Tea in San Francisco. I needed something sweet to go with my tea, and because it was late in the day there was only one thing left in the case. Obviously this was fate. Afterwards I went back to ask what it was I’d just eaten that was so delicious and new, and that was when I learned about the Third Culture phenomenon.

The HQ has several flavors of mochi muffin, several flavors of mochi donuts, specials like mochi waffles, drinks, and swag. At first I was all about the mochi muffin—chewy and toasty and rich and addictive—but I have been fully converted to deliciousness of the donuts too. The icing on the donuts tastes bright and bold, and there are great seasonal specials. Really though the way to go is to fill a box with anything that catches your eye and sample it all.

I’m also all the way addicted to the ceremonial matcha, iced with sparkling water. The first time I tried the combination I wasn’t convinced, but something compelled me to try it again, and I crave it all the time now. It is a super refreshing pick-me-up and totally worth a try if you like matcha.

Everyone at the showroom is super friendly and the whole place radiates the kind of good vibes that the best bakeries and sweets makers have.

Third Culture Bakery 2701 Eighth St, Berkeley, CA 94710

Try: a box with a few flavors of donut and a mochi muffin or two; ceremonial matcha with sparkling water