Star chef Shota Nakajima opened his Osaka-influenced street food spot Taku in March 2020 with kushikatsu and cocktails, just a week before Washington implemented its stay-at-home order. Now, almost a full year after closing temporarily, the restaurant is ready for a revival, with a slight change in plan. Instead of focusing on skewers, the menu will revolve around karaage (Japanese fried chicken) when Taku reopens May 5.
Diners can expect marinated, buttered, and twice-fried karaage nuggets and wings available either with teriyaki sauce or dry seasoning. Also on offer will be chicken karaage rice bowls, a curry karaage burger topped with kewpie mayo, and a selection of sides, including mac salad, furikake fries, cabbage salad, and miso soup. “My favorite lunch growing up was my mom’s chicken karaage and rice,” Nakajima says. ‘The nostalgia and comfort I feel for this homemade dish inspired me to make it the focus of Taku’s new menu.”
Not much will change with the interior of Taku itself, although the restaurant will stick to takeout at first, before introducing dine-in eventually. For those who didn’t get a chance to check out the place when it opened early last year, the decor is busy — a small divey space festooned with Japanese paper lanterns, anime posters, and a giant Godzilla head. There’s also a takeout window on East Pike Street, and preordering will be available through the official website.
While the menu makes a significant shift, Nakajima will look to recreate the playful atmosphere he originally intended. Right from the start, Taku will serve Jell-O shots (in addition to other cocktails) to go, and the so-called “Fuckit Bucket” — a hodgepodge dish on the original menu — will make a comeback, too.
Taku’s reopening marks a high point in a roller coaster year for Nakajima. After Taku’s debut was cut short, the chef decided to close his acclaimed upscale restaurant Adana permanently last summer. Then, he landed on the new season of “Top Chef,” which filmed in Portland during the pandemic and is currently airing on Bravo. So far, Nakajima seems to be a natural, earning a co-win in his second week and landing in the top elimination challenge group in all three episodes.
The exposure should give Taku a boost, too. On April 24, Nakajima is doing a one-night-only pop-up dinner at the restaurant with fellow contestants Sara Hauman and Byron Gomez, with proceeds going to charity.