While fancy sushi joints flourish, izakayas increase in number, and ramen shops and pop-ups reveal themselves, I find myself missing Takohachi in the International District. Just like nearby Koraku, Takohachi served simple, affordable, homestyle Japanese food before it closed in 2007, and nothing has come close to offering the same fare in such a cozy, casual setting.
Oh, Kaname is there now, doing its izakaya thing, but it's almost too fancy by comparison. I miss the big red octopus sign that greeted me as I approached the restaurant. I miss the cute colored pencil drawings of steaming bowls of ramen and other specials that were taped to the walls. I miss the efficient service of the forever-young waitress. I even miss the sticky floor she worked with ease.
The place was always full of Japanese people, from students to seniors, enjoying bowls of ramen, plates of curry, and sides of gyoza. You could also order other Japanese classics from tonkatsu to teriyaki, and korokke to karaage.
But best of all was the goodness of the grilled mackerel dish known as saba shioyaki, or saba shio for short. The fish was at once crispy and flaky, providing a salt jolt that was almost addictive. For just eight-and-a-half bucks, you also got miso soup, salad, and a choice of rice. Only the health nuts, typically Westerners, went for the white rice. Everyone else got Takohachi's masterful yaki meshi--fried rice with a bacon-dripping flavor that I miss as much as the saba-shio - making for a combination plate that was one of my favorites in Seattle.