Grill-it-yourself bulgogi is our No. 1

Korean barbecue among delicious experiences of reopened Takamatsu
2012-06-28T00:00:00Z 2012-06-28T13:37:12Z Grill-it-yourself bulgogi is our No. 1Kathleen Allen Kallen@azstarnet.com Arizona Daily Star
June 28, 2012 12:00 am  • 

It's official.

Bulgogi, the Korean barbecue dish, is number 28 among the "world's 50 most delicious foods."

This is what CNNgo.com discovered when it conducted a Facebook survey last year.

More than 35,000 people voted. And this is what we can't figure out:

Why wasn't bulgogi number 1?

Surely, if they had all eaten at Takamatsu, there would have been no contest.

The Korean/Japanese restaurant, which the Koga family opened in 1995, reopened last August after a fire had closed it for a little more than a year.

The restaurant is roomy, and boasts a bar with karaoke, if you are in the mood for a song or two.

The entertainment at the pre-fire Takamatsu was the teppen-yaki tables with a chef chopping and chatting. Those are no more. Instead, there are plenty of booths for cozy cooking over a gas grill, and a sleek sushi bar in a separate area divided by a glass partition.

A year is a long time to wait for the bulgogi ($14.95), thin strips of rib-eye steak marinated in a sauce spiked with sesame and soy sauces and perked up with a bit of fresh ginger. At Takamatsu, it comes to the table raw and the gas grill in the center is fired up. Here you cook your own - don't groan; it's part of the experience.

It also comes with raw garlic, slices of jalapeño and onions for grilling alongside the meat, a fermented soy bean paste, spicy kimchee, fresh spinach laced with sesame oil, paper-thin cucumber slices, and a hefty serving of crisp green leaf lettuce.

The idea is to cook the meat, garlic, pepper and onions to your taste, then pile everything up on the lettuce - add the extras you want, fold it over, close your eyes, bite, and be prepared for a bit of food nirvana. Cool and hot. Smooth and crisp. The dish dances with textures and tastes.

Don't worry if you get confused about what is what and goes where - the staff will gently school you on the art of Korean barbecue.

If pork is more to your liking, that's available in the barbecue style, too ($13.95). It comes to the table covered in a marinade spiked with cayenne and chili paste.

The servings are abundant. While you might wonder about the wisdom of cooking over a hot grill during a Tucson summer, have no fear: exhaust fans and good air conditioning keep everything at the restaurant quite pleasant temperature wise.

Still not game? Most of the dishes can be prepared in the kitchen rather than at your table. But come on, where's the fun in that?

If you want the barbecue and your companion the sushi, you can still sit in the portion of the restaurant with the grill-top tables. (But note, at least two have to order from the barbecue menu in order to fire up the table grill.)And you can sit in the sushi bar area if you have the kitchen prepare your barbecue.

The grill offerings also include shrimp, scallops, tongue, deckle (that's the fatty part of a brisket) and pork belly. The extensive Korean menu offers more than a dozen other entrees and a broad choice of soups and stews.

Japanese offerings include tempura and fried rice dishes. You can get all-you-can-eat sushi for $19.95, but you are penalized for leftovers, can't carry out and the sushi choices are more limited than if you ordered per piece. About that sushi - it's OK. But just OK.

If we had a choice - and hey, isn't that what a democracy's all about? - we would stick with the Korean barbecue.

And especially bulgogi. It's No. 1 on our list.

REVIEW

Takamatsu

5532 E. Speedway, 512-0800

• Hours: 11 a.m.-10 p.m., Sundays-Thursday; 11 a.m.-midnight Fridays and Saturdays.

• Noise level: Tolerable.

• Vegetarian options: Plenty.

• Gluten-free: Some dishes can be prepared this way; ask your server.

• Dress: Tucson casual.

• Family call: Bring 'em all. There's enough to please the whole family. And there's a children's menu.

• Reservations: Accepted.

• Price range: Dinner menu ranges from $7.95 for yakisoba to $38 for a sushi boat.

• Alcohol: Full bar with happy-hour specials daily that range from $4 sake bombs to $3 glass of house wines.

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Get weekly ads via e-mail