I’ve been to Taberu before. That time, the morning after the night before shall we say, I wasn’t much in the mood for raw fish and headed straight for the vegetarian options. You can pick up some lovely avocado pieces wrapped in sushi for lunch and be done with it. Delicious, I thought. Can’t wait to go back, I thought.
The time came last week. I was going to celebrate a friend’s birthday. There were six of us there, all crammed into a tiny booth in the back corner by the kitchen door. Amazingly, every table at Taberu makes you feel as if you are the unwanted diner being shuffled ever closer to the toilet.
No matter, I thought, since the food is pretty good and not too pricey. As we chat, the waiter comes over and asks what we want. I realise I haven’t actually looked at the menu yet and so hurriedly order a pork and rice dish with a side of octopus sushi. In truth, I wanted the sushi more to gain access to the pickled ginger than anything else.
I don’t normally have a problem with slow restaurants, but this was something else. One dish arrived: the pumpkin katsu curry. Delicious, the eaters proclaimed. But we were left asunder. Then my dish came, which was a small mercy as I was about to reach across the table and demand the leftover rice from my friend. The pork managed, at one and the same time, to be tasty but more greasy than anything I have ever put in my mouth. The breadcrumb batter melted away into an oil residue. It also had the texture of a fifth cooking, which was unfortunate, but did not detract from the overall flavour.
Other dishes continued to arrive in dribs and drabs. The girls next to me realised they had ordered one too many sushi platters. It was fun. Then I looked at birthday-girl, dishless. By the time we had all finished, her first plate had arrived. My octopus is also curiously absent. In the end, the waiter comes over with a plate of avocado rolls and two octopus, declaring, “I have brought a plate for whomever ordered one.” His listless voice was mirrored in the curiously flavourless and chewy octopus, nestled so bizarrely amid someone else’s food.
The eating experience was pleasant, if you can overlook the extremely long time we spent there (two hours in total) and the unfriendly attitude of the waiters to their customers. Bringing the bill over, he gave it to me (I had not asked for it) presumably because I was the only man amongst five women. Misogyny always tops a meal off nicely. The 10 per cent obligatory service charge was the cherry on the cake after that.