"Kushi" means skewer; "katsu" tells you it's fried. And boy, is it fried.

If you’ve experienced Shota Nakajima’s five-course menu at Adana (or its fancier kaiseki-inspired predecessor, Naka), it’s pretty clear—he’s more an “art on a plate” guy than a fried food sort. Which is precisely why I’m excited for his new spot, Taku, to open in a few short weeks, on Wednesday, March 11. 

From the sound of things, one of Seattle’s most accomplished young chefs applied his culinary standards to the food he likes to eat after a night of drinking. Taku, a little slip of a bar on Pike/Pine next to Salt and Straw, pays homage to Osaka’s tradition of kushikatsu, supremely grabbable skewers of fried meat, seafood, and the occasional vegetable, served with dipping sauces and a few palate-cleansing side dishes. 

Customers fill out their own preferred combo of six-ish skewer options on menu sheets—short ribs (the original kushikatsu), pieces of brie, or a quarter of an avocado that looks ludicrously delicious on the photos—and hand the paper over the kitchen counter.  Most skewers run about $3 or $4 each. Nakajima keeps the lineup fairly faithful to what you can find in Osaka’s Shinsekai district, no neo-Northwest geoduck skewers here, but took a gleeful detour into dubious American food choices with Taku’s “fuck it bucket,” a red and white striped tribute to a certain iconic chicken joint, just filled with a bunch of cool fried stuff. 

A newly installed neon sign outside proclaims Taku a destination for “rice on the hill,” another aspect that isn’t strictly traditional. “There’s only pizza, literally, on Capitol Hill late night,” he says. “I always want rice.” Nakajima special orders Tamaki gold, which he proclaims “the best of the best” when it comes to white rice (and more than triple the price of a lot of rice out there) to top with, say, some katsu and a sauce.

Customers can access all this fried goodness either via a pickup window, for frenzied consumption elsewhere, or in Taku’s compact bar area, which will pour highballs, Japanese beer in bottles and cans, draft cocktails, boozy slushies, and straightforward well drinks. “I don’t want to see anyone shaking a drink,” is how Nakajima described the bar vibe to me back in December.

What he does want to see, he says, is a drink in someone’s hand within two minutes of them walking through the door. “I think a lot of people have forgotten the simplicity of just serving food, and it’s not really about you,” says the chef, whose sensibility certainly drives the excellent menu over at Adana. This place is about Nakajima-approved drinking food, sure, but also a chance to export another facet of Japan’s endlessly rich food culture. 

Even by Seattle's crazy standards, Taku's been a long time coming; Nakajima first announced his plans back in December 2018. You can keep tabs on all things kushikatsu (and admire the house T-shirts) over on Instagram.  

Show Comments