A midscale spot gets hit hard by the recession.
The accolades came almost immediately after opening—inclusion in Esquire magazine’s Best New Restaurants of 2008, a spot on the Martha Stewart Show and glowing reviews in the local dining sections, including a rave one from this writer when I visited back in February of ’08.
But after about a year, Takashi’s newness wore off, and restaurant-goers addicted to buzz moved on to the latest openings. Devoted regulars addicted to the delicate and delicious Japanese-by-way-of-France food helped keep the books fairly full through the early part of 2009, but then the bad economy started to take its toll. And while it’s true that a recession is tough for any restaurant, it was especially hard on midscale restaurants like Takashi, where the check average is around $60 per person for a three-course meal. “Everything these days is shifting down, going casual, and I understand that. I love casual myself,” chef Takashi Yagihashi says. “But I want to keep this restaurant what it is for people who want the complete experience…but don’t want to spend $200 a person on Alinea and Trotter’s.”
He wants to keep his vision intact, but he’s also the guy balancing the books, so he’s made adjustments. A $36 three-course prix fixe on Tuesdays and Wednesdays sometimes includes signature dishes like sushi-grade snapper on ohba leaves and crispy-skinned chicken with salty-sour yuzu. And on Sundays, Takashi now opens for lunch, with $3 to $8 small plates (pork belly tucked into steamed buns; housemade tofu in gingery soy sauce) and $10 to $13 noodle bowls (including soupy pork-studded miso ramen similar to that at Takashi’s Noodles downtown). The reception for the Sunday changes has been warm, and weekend nights are fairly steady, but Yagihashi admits the weeknights remain “kind of scary.” Still, he’s loath to shift concepts. “I am trying a few new things, but I don’t want it to become damage control, like I am just putting a Band-Aid on something,” he says. “If I can’t achieve this my way, I don’t want to do it.”
1952 N Damen Ave, 773-772-6170