by Ian Froeb
I have a lot to say this week about Takaya New Asian (634 Washington Avenue; 314-241-5721), the upscale Asian-fusion spot that is one of the cornerstone restaurants of the new Mercantile Exchange development downtown.
I have a lot to say even though one dish at Takaya left me momentarily speechless.
That's the tease. Now let's talk about the name.
What happens when you put the word new in your restaurant's name? Well, this jaded diner immediately asks himself, "OK, then. How, exactly, are you new?"
Or, rather, since all newly opened restaurants are "new," I ask, "How, exactly, are you different?"
So if you're going to call yourself New, you had better be sure your concept and menu aren't riddled with things that have been done before -- and especially things that never should have been done in the first place.
Of course, Takaya isn't only New, it's New Asian.
I feel like I've made this point many times before, but here it goes again: It's now, by my watch, the second decade of the twenty-first century. Our knowledge of and, more vitally, our curiosity about the many different cuisines of the world -- not simply different countries, but different regions within those countries -- is broader and keener than it has ever been.
If there were ever a moment to explore this umbrella concept of "New Asian" or "Asian Fusion" cuisine -- and I don't know that there ever was such a moment -- now is not it.
Is there an argument to be made in defense of something as nebulous (and outdated) as "New Asian" or "Asian Fusion"? Maybe.
Does Takaya New Asian make it?
Tune in tomorrow.