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Boise's Genki Takoyaki Dreams of Osaka Nights

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The chilled tofu's texture proved difficult for some, but all agreed the flavor was a perfect balance. - XAVIER WARD
  • Xavier Ward
  • The chilled tofu's texture proved difficult for some, but all agreed the flavor was a perfect balance.
The yakitori grilled chicken skewers came in two varieties: chicken oyster and heart. - XAVIER WARD
  • Xavier Ward
  • The yakitori grilled chicken skewers came in two varieties: chicken oyster and heart.
Rhett Atagi kept his comments brief at the pop-up dinner, "Japanese Summer Classics," on July 26. He thanked everyone for coming and encouraged everyone to buy a lot of beer.

"That's how these guys make money," he said, referring to Tasso, the host for the pop-up dinner.

Shortly after, the courses rolled out.

The evening kicked off with a chilled hiyayakki tofu. The chilled gelatinous brick of tofu sat in a small pool of ginger soy sauce, dressed with green onions and bonito fish flakes. The texture of the chilled tofu was difficult for some, but all agreed the flavor was spot on. The creamy tofu paired well with the savory ginger soy sauce, and the green onions were the perfect aromatic accompaniment.

The takoyaki, even as an appetizer, was the biggest hit at Japanese Summer Nights pop-up dinner at Tasso. - XAVIER WARD
  • Xavier Ward
  • The takoyaki, even as an appetizer, was the biggest hit at Japanese Summer Nights pop-up dinner at Tasso.
Next was yakitori, a grilled chicken skewer. There were two varieties: chicken oyster with scallion, and chicken hearts with a lemon zest. The chicken oyster, a ball-shaped part of the chicken thigh, was the crowd favorite. The richness of the chicken was met with the slightly sweet grilled scallion. While some were apprehensive to dive into the chicken hearts, their worries quickly ceased. The tough heart meat is rich and almost beef-like in flavor and texture. The acidic tang of lemon helped to cut its richness.



Next up was Atagi's magnum opus: takoyaki. The small, spherical Japanese octopus dumplings are a delight. In fact, Atagi's business, Genki Takoyaki, sells these treats around Boise.

Chilled zaru-soba buckwheat noodles topped with all the goodies: ginger, daikon root and green onion. - XAVIER WARD
  • Xavier Ward
  • Chilled zaru-soba buckwheat noodles topped with all the goodies: ginger, daikon root and green onion.
Each attendee received three takoyaki, dressed with a special sweet savory sauce, kewpie mayo, bonito flakes and nori, a dried seaweed. While Atagi warned guests to allow them to cool, few could wait so long.

It wasn't long after, however, that the main course of the evening was served. Atagi wanted to put an Idaho spin on the classic Japanese cold zaru-soba noodle. The dish is traditionally served with mackerel, but Atagi opted for a grilled Idaho trout. The noodles, made with a dark buckwheat flour, had a rich earthiness to them.

The accouterments for the noodles were grated ginger, minced daikon route, green onions, julienned nori and a men-tsuyu dipping sauce, all of which served to counter the deep, earthy flavor of the buckwheat noodles. The trout, expertly grilled, almost seemed like a side to the noodles. Due in no small part to the size, a lot of people took their leftovers to go.
A grilled trout fillet served as an accompaniment to the noodles. - XAVIER WARD
  • Xavier Ward
  • A grilled trout fillet served as an accompaniment to the noodles.
The evening wrapped up with a green tea "mochi-yaki" sundae, a creation of Atagi's own. Atagi uses the same pan to cook the takoyaki, and created desert dumplings filled with a sweet red bean, nestled on a small bed of french vanilla ice cream, topped with a sprinkling of green tea matcha powder and a drizzle of coconut caramel sauce. The desert dumplings were a hit and a perfect way to close out the night. 
Dessert was a "mochi-yaki" sundae, a desert dumpling served with a french vanilla ice cream. - XAVIER WARD
  • Xavier Ward
  • Dessert was a "mochi-yaki" sundae, a desert dumpling served with a french vanilla ice cream.