>Taiko — good value homestyle Japanese

>I am not the type of person to wait for a table, because when I’m hungry, I need to eat right now. This is precisely the reason why I don’t go to Taiko often. When have you ever seen people camped out outside a restaurant waiting for it to open? If you’ve ever driven past Taiko around 4.30pm on any given weeknight, you will see people standing in line awaiting its doors to open. Sometimes, people bring their lawn chairs to camp outside — bizarre, yes, but that’s what people do. It is not because Taiko serves up excellent or highly authentic fare, but it is because the portions are big and it is definitely bang for your buck for decent Japanese food, but high end Japanese cuisine it is not.

The menu is confusing, consisting of a mish mesh of Japanese food. There is sushi, tempura and combination dinners featuring sesame chicken or teriyaki of some sort. The combo dinners are huge and is enough to feed two of me. On this occasion, I ordered the tempura, sesame chicken and grilled calamari combo. Tempura is heavy on the batter and the dipping sauce doesn’t come with grated radish — definitely not authentic — but it serves its purpose in the clientele it caters to. Sesame chicken is just some chunks of chicken deep fried, no trace of sesame whatsoever, but it is tasty enough and appeals to a wide audience, especially children. My favorite is the grilled calamari but only when they’ve done it perfectly and not overcooked it so it becomes rubbery.

Agedashi tofu and soft shelled crab are also very good, probably two of the best items we ordered. Sukiyaki arrived in a large pot, a heaping portion, again, with chicken, napa cabbage, onions and enough to feed two, but the broth was too sweet for me so I didn’t enjoy it very much.

In terms of sushi, the fish is very fresh and more often than not, of very good quality, however, there is too much rice which takes away from good sushi eating. They are certainly not skimpy on the fish since it is a hunking piece, but half the amount of rice would suffice and make it a far better piece of sushi. My favorites were uni, hotate (scallops), amaebi (sweet shrimp) and mirugai (giant clam).

The wait can sometimes be very frustrating. We were lucky that on this occasion it was 30 mins, unlike the usual 45min to an hour’s wait on weekends. Honestly, I don’t believe the food here warrants such a long wait in terms of quality, but in terms of a great bargain, Taiko has everything you’re looking for and more.

Taiko, 14775 Jeffrey Rd, Irvine, CA 92618. Tel: 949-559-719

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