I’m going to call it out, so many places in Zagreb get away with average food. They hire a PR, buy their hype and all of a sudden they are “the most exclusive” and “most expensive” place to dine at. Being expensive is fine but the value better be there for every kuna the restaurant asks for. A lot of restaurants in Zagreb look the part of a top restaurant but once you get inside, you notice that the apple isn’t so fresh or hot, after all. Which leads me to this statement, if you love your Japanese food and aren’t afraid to spend a little more, I highly recommend Takenoko in Zagreb. They are the best Japanese restaurant in Zagreb, Luka likes to say the whole of Croatia but I haven’t eaten sushi outside of Zagreb.
Takenoko has two locations in Croatia, one in Zagreb and another in Old Town Dubrovnik. Takenoko in Zagreb is situated on Masarykova 22, basically the city centre. This was my 3rd visit to Takenoko and with each visit, I enjoy the restaurant more. On this particular visit, I noticed Chef Motohiko Mochizuki in the kitchen, what a special Sunday lunch.
Luka and I like to order a variety of different dishes at Takenoko that we then share. While making our order out waiter kindly stopped us and said, “Guys excuse me, but I think you have more than enough for now on this list..” I mean, he doesn’t need to say that because whether it’s eaten or thrown away, it still ends up on the bill but it was a nice gesture that didn’t go unnoticed.
Not willing to remove the gyoza or the salmon off our list, we settle for what we initially ordered and go from there. Also note that Takenoko have great alternatives for people who aren’t really into sushi and sashimi. If my friend Ines loves the place but doesn’t love sushi, you know you’re winning.
Spicey edamame beans while we waited for our starters. These can often be overpowering after a few bites but at Takenoko they are marinated and grilled to perfection. Highly recommend.
We started with the gyoza and tempura prawns and vegetables that are always the perfect starter treat.
I am a massive fan of black cod which Takenoko do have on the menu but it’s not Luka’s favourite fish. I had the black cod the first time I went in early March and loved it so I do also recommend that. On this visit, we had the salmon fillet with gochujang glaze that comes served on a soft buttery subtle pumpkin puree.
Finally, over to the sushi. Our love for salmon and tuna is visible, we also included the soft shell crab. I absolutely love the sushi at Takenoko, it’s fresh and literally melts in your mouth, how is that even possible? But it does.
More food? Why not, last time we were here we ordered dessert and were pleasantly surprised. This time we ordered the creme brûlée and chocolate soufflé which has a soft green chocolate that melts onto your plate as your take each bite.
This is my second favourite dessert in Zagreb, second to that pistachio masterpiece at Boban’s down the road.
Here’s the thing about Takenoko, it’s not pretentious but has every reason to be. Great food, great staff and service, it’s worth every kuna. Considering at Zuma in London your bill won’t come under £250 for two, Takenoko provides great value for what it’s asking you to pay.
Another point I’d like to mention and I believe this is a problem throughout Zagreb is customer service. Takenoko has no problem with customer service, in fact each time I walk by the restaurant with Luka or my friends one of the staff members will come to the door, say hello and wish us a good day. May I remind you that I have only been three times in the past 2 months. On our visit today, the head waiter who wasn’t serving us still made an effort to come over, shake our hands and ask us how we’ve been. In Zagreb, even Croatia, it’s not difficult for a restaurant to stand out, just provide excellent customer service. Train staff on how to build rapport with customers and your business will thrive ten fold.
I’m not famous, I’m not prancing around head to toe in designer clothes or stepping out of a Merc outside the restaurant but I am someone who appreciates to smaller things in life, a simple comment like “Thank you for choosing Takenoko for lunch today,” goes a long way. It’s moments like that I remember and share with others because we all want to feel welcome where we drop our money.
For 2 people (as above, including 2 glasses of wine) approx. 800kn (108€)
For 4 people (with drinks) approx. 2,000kn (270€)