I can’t seem to make a gastro lady out of Irena. Every time we come to a restaurant, she orders a hamburger or, in best case, fried squeed with inevitable french fries. I was trying to think of a place where there are no fries and burgers and I thought of a Japanese restaurant Takenoko. They just moved to a new location on Masarykova street 22 and that was a great opportunity to turn a simple country girl into an urban lady.
I phoned her and said: “Irena, I’m taking you out for sushi!”
Irena:”Is sushi that raw Chinese thing? I’ll be sick if I eat that!”
I had to restrain myself from killing her. I told her politely: “Wear something oriental and let’s eat. You’ll like it.”
The restaurant really looked phenomenal and Irena looked even better in her oriental edition (maybe because of the bird nest on her head, but in any case, it was her most asian look so far).
The kind waiter asked us if we would like an aperitif and as if Keith Richards spoke through her, Irena eagerly asked for two shots of schnapps.
I was so embarrassed. I told her: “You’re not in your village now, woman! We’re not going to order moonshine. “ I apologized in her behalf and ordered SAKE – Kikusi Junmai Ginjo (I explained to her that Sake is a traditional Japanese rice wine which has a bit of a schnapps flavor). She only heard the word schnapps and she was happy. Since she comes from a heavily drinking region of the country, she asked the waiter to leave the whole bottle to the table.
For appetizer we chose fried scallops breaded in panko crumbs and rolled beefsteak with daikon and truffles.
Crunchy, yet soft, creamy with aromatic truffles, scallops were just melting in our mouths. I told Irena that the Japanese say Itadakimasu before the meal. She said: “Ita-duck me what now? Don’t be a know it all, just shut up and eat.”
Irena was having a hard time eating something that didn’t use to walk on four legs so she immediately grabbed the steak rolls and said: “Joe! This is excellent!”
The amazing appetizer was fallowed by a plate of Nigiri Sushi, Philadelphia rolls with infallible wasabi (I explained to Irena that it was a spicy Japanese horseradish because she already went for it like an orphan for a second plate of food), ginger, soy sauce and one Gunkan nigiri sushi with salmon caviar.
When someone who eats burgers all the time enjoys sushi like a German enjoys beer at Octoberfest, then you know that sushi is great. The plate was phenomenal, as were the crunchy prawns we ordered alongside it, just in case. You’re not you when you’re hungry and that applies to Irena especially. My guess is she has tapeworms. She could eat all day and night.
Even though everything was going great, Irena seemed nervous. I saw she was troubled. She was drinking wine, lost in her thoughts.
I asked nicely: “What the fuck is wrong, dear?” She said: “I think someone cursed me. Must be this cashier lady Ivana. I know she hates me. I need a black cat and a bats wing to get rid of my troubles but where can I find those now?” I said: “A black cat and a bats wing? Have you been living under a rock this whole time? No one uses those anymore. They’re totally out of style and they were also proven to be useless. Pure placebo if it actually works. You are well aware that I’m a village champion in getting rid of curses or even casting some from time to time. One time a cashier named Helga cast a curse on me and trust me, I didn’t get rid of it easily. Those cashier women are a fucking pain. I will use a snob way of taking the curse off. Old school.” So I ordered a plate of fresh truffles and liquid smoke. I can’t tell you the mantras I had to say but you can see what it looked like on the video. Later on, Irena was thanking me and also admitted that Chucherye (in case you don’t know where that is, it’s the biggest fucking shithole under the Zagreb mountain.) school was the best in the world for getting rid of curses.
A great lunch and a successful curse removal couldn’t go without a desert. We ordered a Macha green tea ice cream (very expensive powdered green tea) and Griota in a cup (Chocolate cream with sour cherry puree). I tried to put on a “Chucherye orphan” face in order to get Irena to have mercy and let me eat both of the deserts because I couldn’t decide which one I wanted to eat.
Irena was all but merciful. There is no empathy in her cold, peasant heart.The ice cream was great but the win goes to Griota in a cup. I managed to sneak a bite out of Irena’s cup when I tricked her by saying: “wow, they have a Japanese hamburger after all! Look!” The poor girl looked the other way and I threw myself on her cup like a Kamikaze and grabbed the biggest bite I could at that moment.
If you still haven’t been there, make sure to visit the new TAKENOKO restaurant. It is most definitely the best sushi in the city. You will love the ambient and the food, even if you are not a sushi person. The menu has something for every taste. The choice of wines is great and the staff, as well as the chefs Motohiko Machizoko and Mario Obrovac, are amazing and kind.
I don’t think this story can end without a loan shark style photo of me in front of Takenoko. People must see that I’m blessed with a full head of hair and long legs as well as my gastro expertise.
Masarykova 22, Zagreb
tel: 01/ 6463-385
Author: JoeFlashhr aka Gastro snob, raw fish fancier, tall in Japan, short in his homeland, self-effacing caster of curses from Chucherye, a friend of the wealthy, above all a human, at last but not least a taycoon and a snob