Takumi Sushi, Ramen & Lounge in Branford

Hope Simmons

I heard it through the grapevine their ramen was simply divine, so off I went to check it out. Then, I sampled their sushi, and an ongoing dilemma emerged—what to eat today? Must I choose? Ideally, you’ll want to go with someone who loves both, so you can share and have the best of everything, all in one artfully presented meal. You’ll find it all under one roof at Takumi Sushi, Ramen & Lounge on Route 1 in Branford.

Shoreline locals talked up Hanami for years, so if you remember that spot, it’s now Takumi. And it’s fabulous. I’ve been making the trip to the shore just about every week to get my fix since December. A simple, contemporary space where you can take a break from the hustle and bustle and focus on dining deliciously.

I recently sat down with Abey Huang to talk about Takumi’s approach to sushi. She explained they’re trying to position themselves somewhere between the Japanese way—focused more on the fish itself—and the American way, with more sauces and flavors, but keeping these to the side to allow the pure deliciousness of the fish to stand on its own.

And so ensued a delightful afternoon of sampling, featuring some brand-new, standout appetizers, just added for spring. Abey herself often judges a sushi menu by some of its more creative appetizer offerings—and it’s as excellent a place as any to start here.

My tasting extravaganza began with a true taste of the ocean—fatty tuna, sea urchin and caviar topped with a bit of lemon zest. The smooth, briny sea urchin contrasted with the rich fatty tuna and pops of saltiness from the caviar was a truly inspired combination.

Next came a soft, almost custard-like tofu, with a crispy edge, topped with gorgeous ruby red tuna, oshinko, caviar and a tempura sauce for dipping, should you desire. Topped with finely ground ginger and radish, it was an outstanding combination of both textures and flavors.

And then, a toast (seen above)! Four of them, actually. Moving clockwise from the top right, we have sea urchin with lemon zest, seared scallop, fatty tuna with microgreens, and smoked salmon with avocado and caviar.

Fluke arrived at the table, wrapped around sea urchin, with a drizzle of plum paste over the top and a tiny shiso leaf tucked into the presentation.

Then came a beautifully spiced sushi starter—lightly seared peppered, deep ruby red tuna with wasabi mayo and marinated peppercorns, bringing some fruitiness and a bit of pleasant ma la tingle to the dish.

Tropical yellowtail, a dish I’d always wanted to try, is absolutely of the islands in both taste and presentation. Sliced yellowtail with chopped mango, tomato, cucumber and microgreens on top.

Rounding out my afternoon of great tastes came a dish that, by description alone, gave me pause. Up until that moment, I had not been a fan of eel. Tried it on two separate occasions years ago elsewhere; didn’t appreciate the texture. I’m being polite—I hated it so much, I’d sworn it off for more than a decade. Well, now, here comes some for you to sample. It would be a shame not to like it as I’ve loved everything else … surprise, surprise. When served top quality fish, the difference from lower grade pieces you’ve tried in the past is night and day. In fact, the eel was tender and not at all how I remembered its texture. Served with shrimp tempura, spring mix and avocado, wrapped in sesame soy paper, dotted with a combination of black sesame sauce (similar to a mild, sweet peanut butter sauce) and eel sauce, it was both delicate and delicious. I might recommend if you’ve always wanted to try eel, this would be the place to do so!

One of my very favorites that was introduced around Christmastime, is the soba noodle tree. These cold wheat noodles with chopped tuna, tomato and Japanese citron wasabi sauce are a taste sensation for tuna lovers.

No matter what rolls I’ve ordered over time, specialty or just the usual, they’re always beautifully prepared and presented. In fact, of all the places I’ve ordered something as simple as spicy tuna roll, I notice it’s never made ahead, but always made to order right at that moment. You’ll definitely taste the difference.

But there’s the whole question of ramen. What will be the bowl that keeps you coming back for more? For me, it’s the specialty ramen displayed on the little card on each table, spicy miso kurobuta (Berkshire pork) ramen. It features their milky, opaque pork bone broth with bamboo shoots, half a soft-boiled egg, sliced Japanese sausage (think smoky like a favorite summer sausage, but skinny like a hot dog) topped with a tangle of scallion and spicy miso paste to spice up the party. Once I tried this bowl, I was hooked. The flavor is off the charts and it’s a great combination of tastes and textures that are oh, so comforting, especially when the weather is cold and gray. There are six ramen options in total, including a veggie ramen with miso broth, and a miso chicken broth with pork.

There’s something for everyone here—even if neither sushi nor ramen rings your bell. The beef negimaki is tender and flavorful, and there’s teriyaki and tempura to choose from as well. And for a smooth and soothing beverage, try their Japanese matcha iced green tea. It’s clean and smooth, with an almost slightly sweet finish. Next time a Japanese craving hits, you know where to go—head for the shore for sushi, ramen and more!

Takumi Sushi, Ramen & Lounge is located at 906 West Main Street in Branford, CT.