Tako Grill brings a bit of Japan to Bethesda

Sept. 14, 2005, midnight | By Merlyn Deng | 18 years, 10 months ago

People often catch a peculiarly-shaped red balloon in the corner of their eye while rushing along the busy streets of Wisconsin Avenue a few blocks away from the Bethesda Metro station. The red balloon is a well-known landmark and signature of the Japanese restaurant, Tako Grill. The grill is both a restaurant and a sake (Japanese rice wine) bar, and serves not only varied but also delectable Japanese cuisine.

The entrance connects to a generally quiet room with a sake bar and TV that shows sumo wrestling. Further in, there is a second room for larger groups that is much louder and busier. The restaurant menu boasts many well-known Japanese dishes such as sushi and sashimi, and also offers the opportunity to try more exotic Japanese fare. Although the name of the restaurant, Tako means octopus, the Grill actually has very few octopus dishes. The octopus sashimi is one good offering, and the rest of the dishes offered are generally exceptional.

Each entrée is preceded by a bowl of traditional hot miso soup and bean sprout salad that displays Tako Grill's authentic Japanese style. However, like most American foreign restaurants, Tako Grill deviates from the traditional cooking style for specific dishes. For example, the Shrimp and Scallop Kebobs are flavored with Italian dressing. Virtually every type of diner can find something to eat at Tako Grill. Diners may choose from sautéed, broiled, fried and steamed dishes, which are largely dominated by seafood assortments.

After the miso soup and light salad, each dish arrives on a well-decorated platter, providing each diner with a stylish representation of Japanese dishes. Nabeyaki, a type of thick Japanese noodle, arrives in a rustic bowl while shrimp dumplings come in a wooden box.

Aside from diverse Japanese dishes many people have never heard of but will surely enjoy, Tako Grill tackles the challenge of presenting the most famous of Japanese dishes: sushi.

Sushi is the single dish that separates Japan's cuisine from the rest of the world, and Tako Grill does a great job with it. Each meticulously prepared sushi platter is delivered with generous amounts of wasabi, a horseradish paste that is used for dipping the sushi, and various types of freshly sushi rolls made from yellowtail fish, crab meat, eel, tuna, and flounder. Not only that, but diners also have the opportunity to observe the makings of a fresh and delicious sushi platter at the sushi bar where many diners choose to sit.

The sushi bar is coupled with a sake bar in the quieter room, where bartenders serve the ancient rice wine that Japan is also known for.

Despite the well-defined merits in cooking and presenting cuisine, Tako Grill is overcrowded with many waitresses and waiters who idle around and leave diners with a lack of privacy. Although diners generally wait less than ten minutes for their meals, the service stops there, since the waitresses and waiters fail to check the needs of the diners with any frequency. The restaurant is adorned with gigantic air balloons and Japanese paintings, but also has various Tako Grill t-shirts tied on strings overhead. But to top off the mismatched décor, a huge flat screen TV is placed in the front of the room, which makes it impossible for the restaurant to possess the same sophisticated nature of its food.

However, all of the distractions of the surroundings of the restaurant evaporate when diners begin to dig in to the delectable Japanese dishes set before them.

Merlyn Deng. Merlyn (Mer - LEEN) has an unhealthy fixation on Silver Chips Online, the Silver Chips Manifesto, red pens and serial commas. When not editing stories and racking her brain for SCO and its readers, she may be found haunting Blair's hallways or downtown Silver Spring. … More »

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