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Channeling the vibe of loud and lively Osaka, Shota Nakajima’s Taku now open on Capitol Hill

Shota Nakajima at work at Taku

Through his years running the award-worthy kitchen at 15th and Pine’s Adana and into the scary current times around Capitol Hill’s food and drink economy during the response to COVID-19, chef Shota Nakajima says he knows survival in the business isn’t really about the dishes and the booze. It’s about the vibe.

“Let’s do simple,” Nakajima says of his new addition to the neighborhood’s scene — Taku is now open on E Pike.

In this time of face masks and travel bans, it’s a journey.

“I want it to be really Japanese,” Nakajima said of the loud and so far surprisingly busy “casual spot for quick-serve cocktails” and breaded and fried kushikatsu.

Taku, Nakajima says, is his take on the glories of a busy Osaka bar — loud and obnoxious and full of good drink.

His goal is to have a drink in your hand in minutes. You enter the bar, grab a piece of paper, scribble out your order, and stay alert.

Still the youngest chef/owner on the Hill, Nakajima’s second venue has been a long time coming. CHS first wrote about the project’s early plans in December of 2018.

His tenure in the neighborhood began in 2015 with his namesake Naka restaurant and a focus on kaiseki and its seasonally focused, multi-course meals. He rebooted the concept to become Adana in early 2017 and make his food more accessible and more affordable.

Taku, the small, tightly packed bar, debuts a year and a half later in the giant mixed-use Pike Motorworks development on an E Pike that is much changed and in an environment that is going to be rough for every bar and restaurant. Nakajima says he prefers to stay positive — his Adana offered $2 Coronas the other night.

The new joint is a busy space with or without customers. With neon design by Electric Coffin and Shogo Ota of Tireman Studios, Taku started with Nakajima’s sketches and ended up a space they hope echoes with Osaka alleyways and Shinsekai district food stalls. There’s a long counter with room for 30 non socially distanced patrons plus a communal table. Taku also indulges in the Capitol Hill takeout window trend. You’ll also find a PIke/Pine bonus connecting to the building’s quasi-public inner plaza: Adam Heimstadt of Unicorn Seattle is reportedly constructing a custom unicorn door for the entrance.

Inside Taku, you’ll find simple draft cocktails and booze slushies, plus wine, sake and bottled Japanese beer, and a Toki highball machine. The breaded and fried goodness on the food menu ranges from $2 to $4 a pop for kushikatsu including shishito pepper, Japanese little smokie, lotus root, large shrimp, brie cheese, beef shortrib, veggies, mochi, “and more.”

Taku is “the kind of place I want to go to after I get off work” where he’ll finally be able to find a good bowl of rice after a night out in Pike/Pine — that’s the line Nakajima has been using when talking about the bar. It’s true that the busy young entrepreneur is sometimes not working. He said he is happy to mostly leave Taku in the hands of his right hand chef, Chris Hoey. You’ll find Nakajima still hard at work in the kitchen at Adana but, at Taku, he’ll finally get to enjoy his “rice on the Hill.”

He’s looking forward to that. He’s also interested in seeing what happens when he introduces the loud Osaka vibe in a place Kyoto-quiet like Seattle.

“When your order comes up, they’re gonna call your name,” Nakajima warns. “Better not be in the bathroom.”

Taku is located at 706 E Pike and is open Wednesday to Sunday 3:30 PM to 2 AM. You can learn more at takuseattle.com.


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