This Japanese restaurant is not obvious to the unfamiliar. It has no street frontage nor signage and is tucked away up the back corner of the first level of Victoria Plaza. Its dark wooden interior and dim lighting near the doorway don’t do it any favours in attracting customers either. Despite all this the place is mostly full, even into the early afternoons, as I attest when Mistress introduces me to its tasty fare.
There is a half-mezzanine level within which is decorated in pale wood and is much more brightly lit. At the foot of the stairs to the mezzanine is a cute little children’s play area replete with LCD TV usually with Japanese anime or Thomas the Tank Engine on rotation. Takeru is dominated by booth seating with only a few free-standing tables near the door, but all have access to their own touchscreen menus. I know these have been around for a while but the novelty of flicking through photos and reading their descriptions (sometimes in Japlish) has yet to wear off for me.
Takeru Chatswood is the sister restaurant to Takeru Chinatown and does not major in either sushi or sashimi. Sure, there’s sashimi on the menu but it’s more of a passing thought in amongst all the other Japanese-style café dishes. I have eaten here at least ten times over the past seven months but I have yet to order the sashimi. There are too many detractors, especially the selection of half-size dishes which inversely equate to double the sampling rate!
Takeru’s ‘Seafood Salad’ contains dice-sized sashimi pieces decorated with creamy mayonnaise sitting on mixed salad leaves, tomato wedges, cucumber slices and kernels of corn dressed with a vinegary mixture. The ‘Takeru Salad’ which, according to the menu is “very popular”, has a sliced boiled egg served next to grilled chicken which has been marinated in soy sauce, and renkon chips served on top of mixed salad leaves with a sesame dressing.
More renkon chips are abound in the ‘Soft-shell Crab Salad’. The crab is lightly dusted with parmesan which gives it an interesting aroma when served but doesn’t intrude too much on the taste. Soft-shell crab can also be found with a serve of crisp-coated agedashi tofu, topped with a generous helping of bonito flakes.
Takeru offers a few Japanese interpretations of pizzas, including one which is topped with mochi slices. The pizza bases are soft, light, slightly sweet and quite more-ish. I’ve tried the ‘Squid Ink Pizza’ but expected it to taste more distinctly ‘inky’, although I’m not at all sure what I expected ink to taste like! In actuality the ink has very little taste – perhaps a faintly bitter aftertaste – but offers the pizza a very saucy texture. My favourite has to be the ‘Mentai Hotate Pizza’ with its sweet, barbeque-like sauce contrasted with the salty mentai and sweet scallops.
Takeru has a range of dishes which are available as half-serves, presumably for children or those wanting a light snack, which serve as a chance for people like me to taste test many more items. Amongst my favourite are the ‘Half-serve Gyu-tan Curry’ and the ‘Half-serve Mentai Spaghetti’. The ox tongue is very tender and comes in a pool of smooth Japanese curry while the spaghetti is usually linguine, and comes with a mix of seafood, sticky mentai, okra and mushrooms in a thin creamy sauce.
The ‘Half-serve Tonkatsu Doria’ is a dish of tomato-flavoured rice topped with a fried pork cutlet smothered in a white sauce and melted cheese. It arrives piping hot and is very warming, not to mention rather rich as well!
The ‘Half-serve Omelette Rice’ features more of the tomato rice, but enclosed in a thin egg omelette with a side of meat sauce. It is large for a half-serve, quite filling, and exceptional value for its price of $5.90.
Also on my recommended list are the ‘Half-serve Unagi Cha-han’ and the ‘Half-serve Teriyaki Chicken Don’. The eel fried rice is smoky and garlicky with perfectly separated granules of rice topped with shredded nori. The teriyaki chicken is sweet and sticky without being overly salty or dark in colour.
The ‘Ika Butter Shoyu’ is not a half-serve, but just happens to be a serve at the smaller end of the spectrum of tender squid rings which are a bit too oily for my liking.
Takeru has a page (yes, there are printed menus too) of bentos under its ‘Lunch Specials’ section which are unfortunately not available at other times. They provide a generous meal with the usual inclusions of rice and miso soup. Standards in Takeru’s bentos are agedashi tofu, potato croquette and ebi-fry (prawn) with runny egg salad that has much mayonnaise. I usually choose the ‘main’ of Japanese barbequed beef because it has a nice charred flavour, is juicy and comes in a sweet soy sauce. Of course there are other options which include salmon and chicken.
I don’t normally order dessert here, and one of the few things I’ve tried is the ‘Chiffon Cake with Green Tea Ice-cream’. Feather-light green tea sponge is served with creamy green tea ice-cream. The sponge has a thin, chewy ‘crust’ while the inside of the cake is smooth and springy rather than buttery and crumby.
Service is swift and hardly requires conversation here, but the food and comfortable surrounds are what keep me coming back.
Shop 10, Victoria Plaza, 369 Victoria Ave, Chatswood NSW
Tel: (02) 9412 1203
Opening Hours: Mon-Wed 12pm-9:30pm