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Photograph by George Sakkestad

Rolls of a Lifetime: The new Takara is dedicated to the art of sushi.

Zen Perfection

The new Takara melds aesthetics and culinary expertise

By Janet Blaser

IN CASE you don't know, that loud buzz about town is because of the new Takara restaurant in Capitola. Opened for barely a month now, it has taken the area by storm, offering a menu overflowing with fine sushi and other Japanese specialties, served from a gorgeously redone building in an otherwise monotonous setting. External renovations had hinted at what was to come: simple, Zen-inspired landscaping, peaceful fountains made of bamboo and deep clay pots, an elaborate arched entrance angled at one corner of the former Red Lobster, in the parking lot near Sears.

Stepping inside now that all is completed, you find an oasis of calm and beauty. For while the space is rather huge, it has been sectioned in such a way that functionality, aesthetics and privacy have all received equal consideration. On one side, a bank of tatami- and bamboo-screened tables offer cozy intimacy; in the central area, a rounded, L-shaped sushi bar lines one wall and offers that wonderful bird's-eye view of the chefs at work, while tables and booths fill the rest of the room. Even the foyer is well thought out, with ample room (and seating) for waiting as well as a "designated" take-out counter.

Prices are reasonable and competitive, despite the obvious elegance and extent of the redo, with a two-piece maguro, unagi or ebi nigiri priced at $3.75, most maki-style rolls $4.75, and the half-dozen-plus vegetarian maki weighing in at an average of $3.95. The menu also offers dinners from the grill ($12.25-$14.50 including salad, rice and soup), such as broiled rainbow trout, chicken or beef teriyaki and sesame chicken with lemon sauce.

Do check out the selection of Combination Dinners, some of which feature an entree and sashimi (hamachi and tuna) or sushi (hamachi, tuna, ebi, sake and tako)--a great deal at about $15. Besides the regular menu, take-out offerings also include several platters, ranging from a 24-piece platter suitable for two to three people ($25.95), made up of six pieces each of California roll and unavo (unagi and avocado), and two each of maguro, hamachi, unagi, ebi, tako and tamago nigiri, to the Best Deal, for six to seven people ($49.95), a panoply of a dozen each of six rolls. Takara Sushi Bar & Grill is located at 3775 Capitola Rd., Capitola. The restaurant is open 3:30-10pm; lunch hours will be added soon. Reservations are an absolute must for weekends and peak dinner times; call 464.1818.

Log On, Take Off

Also new on the scene is--get this--the Expedia.com Cafe, right smack in the middle of the San Jose Airport (actually, it's opposite the America West counter, in Terminal A). Some of you may know that Expedia.com is an online reservation service specializing in cheap fares; the fact that the company is opening cafes in airports around the country is pretty danged interesting.

The prototype is simple: chic surroundings, healthy California cuisine, easy access to outlets so travelers can sit and work/surf online on their laptops, hopefully, in the process, logging on to Expedia.com. All hype aside, it is actually quite a nice premise. Because the truth is, if you're traveling and have stopped over in an airport, it is nice to be able to check and send emails, print out maps, and make or confirm reservations. And the cafe part of this equation, while simple, is also welcome. Run by Max's Restaurants, the menu features four sandwiches, all $7.99 (corned beef or pastrami, fresh roasted turkey, albacore tuna, or ham and dill havarti), a Chicken Caesar Salad ($5.99) and even Continental breakfast ($5.59) till 10am.

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From the November 29-December 6, 2000 issue of Metro Santa Cruz.

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