Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Kabuki, I will miss you

I just heard that Yoshiaki Takayama, the owner of what's probably the best Japanese restaurant in town, died of cancer at the age of 57. The restaurant Kabuki is a short walk from where I work. It was always full at lunchtime, but sometimes we made a reservation and went there anyway.

Kabuki is an unusual place. I've never been to Japan, but I have a feeling it's gotta be pretty much like corner restaurants there are like. It's quite small, not fancy at all, and has a no-nonsense simple and well-worn interior. One of the tables is on a tatami; the others have benches, in a concession to local sitting habits, I guess. Mr. Takayama was a huge Star Wars and ice hockey fan, which also showed -- there was a life-size cardboard Boba Fett against a wall, as well as a few ice hockey jerseys signed by the likes of Teemu Selänne.

He also has the rare distinction of having cooked for the Emperor of Japan -- although he was Crown Prince at the time. Crown Prince Akihito visited Finland, and the Japanese embassy had Kabuki handle the catering.

The sushi and sashimi at Kabuki were good, but probably not the best in town: there are a quite a few places where you can get good sushi here. What Kabuki did, though, was offer the full range of Japanese cuisine, and it did it really well -- clearly a cut above anything else available here, and as good as anything I've had abroad.

I didn't go all that often, but the passing of Kabuki has left a void. Even if someone else takes over, it won't be the same. You will be missed, Yoshiaki, and not only by your rock star and hockey champ regulars.

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