Yellow Pages Dinner Club

The "T" Page

Last updated: 2000.6.12

Taka Japanese Restaurant
270 Bleams Road, Kitchener. 748-5456
Visited: Wednesday, August 25, 1999, 7pm

Formerly known as Japanese Taka Restaurant. The ownership changed earlier in 1999.

I'm compressing two visits (one club, one non-club) into this review.
Back in the 'Eighties I developed a taste for Japanese food. (A girlfriend convinced me to try raw fish for the first time, and lo and behold, I liked it! She also convinced me to try anchovies on pizza. Having tried it, I can only assume that the first person to put tiny little fish on an otherwise edible pizza was either playing a nasty joke on people, or a mental patient. But I digress.) The problem was that the nearest Japanese restaurant was in Toronto. Then we discovered a Japanese restaurant in Paris, of all places. We became regulars, although it wasn't exactly somewhere to go on a whim being about forty minutes drive from home.
When Taka opened, down on Bleam's Road at the south end of Kitchener, our visits to Paris dropped off precipitously. Taka was closer, and Taka was better. (Now there are four Japanese restaurants in KW, and Taka is the furthest away from us. The owners of the Paris restaurant moved to Kitchener and opened Sora).
The seating area in Taka is divided by paper and wood partitions into small dining areas. Although the partitions are hardly soundproof, they give a sense of privacy, and the restaurant is generally quiet. There is a small sushi bar behind which the chef works his magic on their sushi and sashimi.
The first time we visited Taka after the ownership changed, Nora and I ordered a sashimi boat between us. The serving was lovely, with delicious looking raw fish piled on a large wooden boat, surrounded by strings of daikon radish, pickled ginger, and that evil green Japanese horseradish paste, wasabi. The only problem was that ninety percent of the fish was salmon and tuna. Although I like raw salmon and tuna, I also happen to like octopus, mackerel, and yellow fin, etc.
When the chef came around later, I had the temerity to ask about the lack of variety on the sashimi plate. He explained that most Canadians don't like the 'weird' fish, so he plays it safe and emphasizes the salmon and tuna.
When we went a few weeks later on Club night, Nora and I asked for a wide variety, and we got it. (This is not a problem we've had at any of the other Japanese restaurants in town. Although the variety varies between them, there is still a variety. The chef at Taka may be right about Canadian preferences, but it means I'll have to be on my guard whenever I order sashimi at a new restaurant).
We stocked up on appetizers as well. Yakitori (sweetly sauced chicken on a skewer); tempura (lightly battered shrimp and vegetables with a sweet dipping sauce); gyoza (fried pork dumplings with a dipping sauce, not unlike Chinese pan-fried dumplings); and miso soup (a thin, tasty broth with small chunks of seaweed and tofu). They were all very good.
Please note that tempura style is the only kind of breaded shrimp I enjoy, all of the others consisting of a vile, dark, heavy batter in which the tiny shrimp become lost.
Not everyone had raw fish. We also ordered katsura, a breaded pork disk, and chicken teriyaki, chicken in a sweet teriyaki sauce.
Although I like teriyaki, many places serve it in a cloyingly sweet sauce. When eaten along with some of the sweetened appetizers, I feel a sudden onset of diabetes.
Our waitress that evening was brand new to the job. She was shadowed by another waitress throughout the night who often tugged on her sleeve and whispered in her ear as she took our orders. We eventually got everything was ordered, but it took a bit of explanation now and then. She apologetic and unfailingly polite, however, so I didn't mind her inexperience in the least.
Rounded off with some Japanese beer, Asahi and Sapporo Dark (or, as one waitress tried to explain to me, "brack beer"), we had an excellent meal.
Alas, Japanese food comes at a price, and a fairly hefty one at that. Although Taka is cheaper than most places in Toronto, and only slightly more than the other Japanese restaurants in town, it's still not cheap by any stretch of the imagination. A meal for six was about $200.00, and that included only four beers. Admittedly, we over indulged on appetizers. Not that we were surprised. We've had enough experience with Japanese food to know what we were getting into.
If you have money burning a hole in your pocket, Taka is well worth a visit.

Traditions of the Conestoga
1333 Weber Street East (near Hiway Market), Kitchener.
Visited: Friday, November 20, 1998

July/99 Update: The hotel has changed names (switching to a different hotel chain association this past spring). The restaurant has been converted to a Golden Griddle. The restaurant is managed by the same people that run the Waterloo one. I got a chance to look at the new menu, and see that prime rib has been added to the list of selections. So I may pay them another visit to make a comparison. -dennis

Dennis: This is a nicely decorated restaurant with a fireplace at one end. Except for the group in the banquet room it was not very busy.
The Friday night special for $12.95 is the all-you-can-eat Prime Rib. As well as the large slab of meat, it came with your choice of potato (baked, mashed, or fries) or rice; vegetables on a stick (zucchini, mushrooms and tomato); and with or without gravy. Three of us went for the special. One rare, one medium, and one well done. Each was pleased with their choice. The prime rib was nicely seasoned. I even managed to stuff in a second portion of the prime rib.
With tax and tip our group of 5 had a bill of $100. The menu ranges from a breakfast special of $3 all the way up to $23; but most of the meals were in the $9-13 range.
Another hidden gem. If you like reasonably priced Canadian cuisine, this is a restaurant I recommend.

David: We debated whether to try the restaurant at the Clarion Inn. For many of us, a hotel restaurant is a place to have an over-priced breakfast when there isn't anywhere good nearby.
Traditions was very pleasant surprise. The food was, without exception, very good. The garlic shrimp appetizer, perhaps the least of the things we ordered, were fine, but the seafood sauce was homemade, and very tangy. (This is a rare find!) The prime rib itself was done to our tastes: Dennis, I'm afraid to say, well-done; Annette, medium; myself, mooing. It was very nicely seasoned, and came in a nice au jus. I won't claim it was the very best prime rib I've had, but it was darn good.
Nora's Cajun chicken, while not quite spicy enough for Nora's hot tastes, was incredibly tender. Gina's sirloin tips were also very good. The chocolate cake that our server forced upon us at the end of the meal (you should have seen me struggle manfully against her evil machinations) was unspectacular, but nice.
The service was very friendly, if a bit scattered at times. It was the server's first time in the restaurant. She had previously worked only banquets. A couple of dinners went missing for a time due to miscommunication with the kitchen, but things were righted quickly enough.
Prices were very reasonable. Most entrees were priced between $7.95 and $12.95, and included potato and vegetable. The prime rib special was only $12.95, but only Dennis and I could even think of having tiny extra pieces of prime rib. (Alas, if only I were a teenager again -- I'd live for Friday nights at Traditions!)
The atmosphere was very pleasant - lots of wood, high ceiling, and fire place, but not formal. We almost had the place to ourselves on a Friday night.
Traditions is not advertised at all. It isn't even listed in the Yellow Pages separately from the hotel. They seem to make their business from the bar (which was very busy), and banquets. It's a shame -- although I guess that means it can be our little secret.

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