Much-hyped Tiger Lane has finally opened the doors of the first of 12 venues in the pan-Asian dining precinct, with Taki opening to the public this week (Monday, 21 November). I was lucky enough to have a sneak peek before the official opening.
Taki is a restaurant of two halves, one focusing on shabu-shabu hotpot, the other on yakiniku charcoal grills. The sides are representative of the Japanese fable of the koi fish, who were trying to leap up waterfalls to reach the top of the mountain but were prevented by trickster demons. Only one koi fish was able to make the jump and, on reaching the summit, it transformed into a golden dragon.
The decor around the bubbling shabu-shabu hotpot is designed to evoke a Japanese bathhouse, with Japanese tatami mats, raised wooden bench-style seating and waterfall curtains.
The other half of the restaurant centres around charcoal burners set into each table: evoking the fiery breath of the golden dragon. An open kitchen runs down the middle, allowing diners to see the chefs in action, and a well-stocked bar offers signature cocktails and local wines.
Chef Shaun Presland explained that shabu-shabu is an onomatopoeic word in Japanese which is used to describe the swishing motion of chopsticks waving thin slices of meat through the hotpot broth.
On the shabu-shabu menu there are three hotpot platters to choose from: gyushiki nabe (wagyu beef), yose nabe (seafood) or chanko nabe (chicken with seafood). The broth for each dish has an umami-rich base of kombu (giant kelp) and dried bonito fish flakes with different seasonings depending on your chosen toppings. The seafood broth has miso and citrusy yuzu, while the beef broth contains soy and sake.
We had the yose nabe which was heaving with a veritable smorgasbord of oysters, scallops, squid, fish, and noodles. A very moreish sesame dipping sauce accompanied the dish as we dipped and slurped our way through the pot. I could have happily finished every last drop of the soup, however I saved some space to try out the other menu.
Typically diners would choose one or the other, rather than gluttonously feasting in both sides of the restaurant, but I was willing to put my stomach on the line for the sake of the story!
Yakiniku comes from the Japanese words ‘yaki’ meaning grilled and ‘niku’ meaning meat. The menu at Taki features premium ingredients, including top-rated Japanese Wagyu beef with high fat marbling scores.
Diners can choose a range of ingredients to grill themselves over the hot charcoal, including thinly sliced beef, premium seafood, and vegetables. We tried a pared-back version of the deluxe Stairway to Heaven which included several different cuts of prime wagyu beef, Japanese pork sausage, seafood and veggies.
Three flavoured salts were on the table for seasoning along with a delicious dipping sauce to dunk the grilled meat in. My favourite was the scallops with butter which we grilled in the shell, and the extra fatty brisket beef slices which melted in the mouth.
The menu comes with a diagram of the different cuts of beef along with a ‘how to’ guide to give customers the best grilling experience. The key is to cook over the hottest part of the grill and not to overcook. Thinner, more marbled slices of beef might need only 10 seconds, while thicker cuts will take a few minutes. But don’t panic: the staff have been well-trained and are full of handy tips to help out even the most novice of cooks!
If cooking your own meal isn’t your thing, there’s also an a la carte menu. Small plates are split into cold and hot, with classic Japanese dishes like agedashi tofu and chicken karaage. With a raw bar, grilled kushiyaki skewers, several salads and sides to choose from you could easily make an exciting meal without ever needing to use the grill or hotpot, but of course that’s would be missing out on a big part of the fun!
Taki really is a luxury experience (with prices to match) but is a delicious and entertaining evening out. And if the other Tiger Lane vendors maintain the same standard, then there’s plenty to look forward to!
Taki is located in the Canberra Centre, Bunda St, Canberra, and is open for lunch and dinner. Book online here.