Takasan: Bowling For Your Buds
Tucker Iida grew up in Tokyo, and when he moved to Los Angeles he wanted to bring some of his home country with him. Proud of his heritage and the traditions he grew up with, as well as a lifelong love of cooking, Iida set his sights on downtown.
“I’m a rice guy over noodles,” he explains, noting that L.A. has a lot of great ramen restaurants but that in Japan “rice bowls have just as much impact.”
He created Takasan, his love letter to Japanese donburi (rice bowls), on 7th street in between Broadway and Spring, adding his stamp to an increasingly hip and unique culinary pocket of downtown, where nearby shops include Weird Beers, Little Fluffy Head, Corporation Food Hall and Little Damage.
The interior of Takasan is what Iida calls “Industrial Zen”. The space has a high ceiling, white walls, succulents, and wooden accents. He points to the single piece of white maple wood running through his space, cut and carved into a communal table. “Ambiance is a huge part of eating,” Iida says. “We eat with our eyes.”
His intention is to make Takasan a place where all are welcome. “I want a place where locals can feel comfortable,” he says, “and where travelers can get a taste of authentic Japan.”
Takasan’s rice bowls are cooked using traditional Japanese techniques and ingredients, lessons Iida learned while cooking for his family as he was growing up. He honed his chops at Cornell, where he graduated from the hospitality and business school, going so far as to design a program to give students an opportunity to create pop-up restaurants of their own. He’s proud to point out that the program continues to this day.
The menu is changing constantly, but Iida points to his core items; Katsu-Don - a fried chicken bowl, Yakiniku-Don - a sweet and spicy sliced ribeye bowl with a poached runny egg (“Decadent and satisfying,” says Iida), and Oyako-Don - a chicken and egg bowl that Iida explains is the Japanese comfort food equivalent of the American grilled cheese sandwich. “The bowl is simple in terms of ingredients, but takes a lot of love and care,” he says. “It is our hardest dish to make because the egg needs to be perfect.”
Iida sees Takasan as the beginning of a movement where he hopes to inspire young millennial food-centric entrepreneurs to celebrate and reinvigorate Japanese cuisine and culture for the 21st century. “The Japanese care a lot about being meticulous,” he says, “and my intention is to provide warm hospitality and fine dining at an affordable price for my guests.”
He looks around his restaurant beaming with price. “I think that we offer a quintessential Japanese experience for Los Angeles today.”
Written by Abel Horwitz | Photography by Rebekah Lemire