It’s just the same as ordering a roll in Spar, says Johny Xin.
Only he’s not talking about brown or white bread, butter or mayonnaise. At Takara, it’s what you want in your fresh sushi: salmon or duck, avocado or rocket.
“You pick your ingredients, and we make it up for you there and then,” says Xin. You also get two dips.
The idea is inspired by the create-your-own-sushi trend that Xin noticed over the waters in England. Whatever takes off in England is coming to Dublin next, he says.
It’s a Thursday around 5pm and Takara – which sits on Upper Abbey Street near the Jervis Luas stop – is bustling.
“This is such a busy street, I think it’s a great location … well, I hope so,” says co-owner Jimmy Pei, who is also head chef in Takara.
This is Xin and Pei’s second restaurant together. They have run Lao on Parnell Street for the last four years.
“Lao is established now and running well, so that allows us to focus on the new place,” says Xin, who is from Shenyang, in Liaoning Province, in China’s north-east.
This new place has large white-bulb lighting and red Japanese lanterns. There is room for around 20 people to sit behind wooden tables, with bench-style seating.
Xin is a hands-on owner. He walks around the restaurant and checks that customers are happy with their food. It’s attentive service for a cafe-style establishment.
Takara has been open for just three weeks, but already the pair of owners are planning to extend the menu.
Xin says they want to add teppanyake, more noodle dishes, even more sushi options, and rice dishes as well (which are absent from the current menu). “It’s great to be able to offer people even more choice,” he says.
At one of Takara’s tables on Thursday, Kayla Kim and Jenny Kyeong were chatting. Kim was finishing up her bespoke sushi, while Kyeong waited for her takeaway ramen bento.
It was good and fresh, says Kim, a small young woman with short hair. “Often the salmon sushi you get here in Ireland is not that fresh.”
The rice is as it should be too. “The problem is that sometimes the rice is hard, not soft and sticky,” says Kyeong. “But here they make it in front of you.”
Says Kim: “The prices are reasonable too.”
That means that the ramen bento – a noodle soup with fish or meat, or vegetables if you’re that way inclined – is priced at €8.50 or €9.50, depending on what you choose, and is served with two pieces of sushi and dips.
The chicken miso ramen bento is lightly spiced, with a large piece of succulent grilled chicken and crunchy vegetables including pak choi, bean sprouts, spring onions, and grilled seaweed. It comes with an egg, too.
On the side are two pieces of sushi. On this plate, one is avocado, the other is cream-cheese. The avocado is fresh and the cream cheese is, well, creamy.
There are eight sushi classics, including a salmon-avocado combination, and aromatic duck. These are priced from €6.50 for eight pieces, and are also made fresh to order.
For €8.50, you can choose your own combination of one fish or meat and two other ingredients, to create your own large sushi roll, and watch it sliced into eight pieces and served with a choice of two sauces and miso soup.