As I sat waiting for my food at Ta-Ke Sushi, a new restaurant from the owner of the recently closed Wazzabi, a young man came in to order some food to go. He explained to the sushi chef that he was drinking at the bar nearby when he noticed the restaurant for the first time. “And I just live around the corner,” he said.
That young man, his drinking friends and his neighbors are likely to be Ta-Ke’s bread and butter, or rice and soy, if you prefer. I doubt it will attract sushi lovers from all over town anxious to try something new. Or because they’ve heard it is exceptional. Mine wasn’t.
Ta-Ke is certainly a change from Wazzabi. That was a large and opulent restaurant that included a teppanyaki room. It was fairly well received, critically, but its fortunes may or may not have been affected by an incident that was reported on local news that involved a couple of diners who did not pay their bill being confronted by the owner in the parking lot. Apparently there was a gun, too. I’m not sure the entire story has been told, but the incident couldn’t have helped with business.
Ta-Ke couldn’t be more different, experientially. It is tiny, occupying the space previously held by Wilfredo’s, and the original location of Gargi’s. But its cozy dining room and small sushi bar, all tastefully decorated, are quite pleasant.
So was the sushi chef. I sat at the bar and when the chef noticed that the one server was busy he offered to take my order if sushi was what I had in mind. (In sushi bar etiquette one never gives the order to the chef directly, unless he or she asks, of course.)
I did have sushi in mind, and I ordered the Ta-Ke Combo #1, which includes seven pieces of nigirizushi and a spicy tuna roll. But I also wanted to sample the vegetable tempura appetizer, which required that I wait to place that order until the harried server was able to get to me. The result was that the sushi was ready well before my appetizer.
The chef asked if I wanted him to hold the sushi until after I had the appetizer, a nice offer. I accepted the sushi boat right away.
And it was lovely. A beautifully presented array of fish -- tuna, white tuna, salmon, shrimp -- atop pads of rice; and perfect-sized coins of the tuna roll with pads of pickled ginger and wasabi. But it was all rather bland and unexciting. The nigirizushi all fell off the pad or rice when flipped for dipping into the soy, all with the exception of the surimi, which was lashed onto the rice pad with a strip of nori. The fish was also a bit too cold -- if I had taken the chef up on his offer to hold it until after I had had the tempura it probably would have been the right temperature.
The tempura was a complete disappointment. With the exception of the asparagus, which has a nonabsorbent density, the assorted vegetables were soggy and greasy, quite easy to set aside.
The value -- not taking into consideration the quality -- is good. The sushi combo was a reasonable $14 and the tempura appetizer $5, a veritable bargain if edible.
And everyone was pleasant and friendly. If the quality were better I’d come here more often, whether I was drinking nearby or not.
I paid my bill and left; there was no trouble.
Ta-Ke Sushi Bar is at 1421 N. Orange Ave., Orlando, across from Lake Ivanhoe. It is open for lunch and dinner daily. There is no website. The phone number is 407-826-1964.