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Takumi puts you behind the grill for Japanese barbecue

Japanese steakhouses are usually an affair. Typically, you pay a lot to sit in a dark room and see meat cooked in front of you.

Takumi, a Japanese restaurant in Uptown that features the chef-for-hire option, a traditional menu for fuddy-duddies, and my favorite, a you’re-the-chef barbecue option that lets you prepare your meal exactly as you like it.

It costs around $12 to get a plate full of raw meat and a plate of fresh veggies, plus rice and a few sauces at Takumi Restaurant.

Although I certainly can’t make a volcano out of an onion and then light it on fire, I was able to cook two types of beef and a chicken breast, as well as a bunch of vegetables, to my moderately exacting standards.

And the price was amazing.

For around $12 plus tax, I got a plate full of raw meat and a plate of fresh veggies, plus rice and a few sauces. The gas grill, circular and about the size of a plate, was hot but not red-hot: it didn’t need to be, because everything was sliced thinly and evenly. The raw sirloin steak cooked quickest, probably a minute or two on each side, and the chicken took the longest. The beef rib meat was thinly sliced too but had more marbling in it. This one took a couple minutes on each side.

The vegetables, zucchini, onions and giant fresh mushrooms cooked best on the outer edges of the grill where the heat wasn’t as intense. They cooked low and slow.

Two types of soy sauce came on the side, and the one with garlic flavor tasted better. White rice, perfectly cooked veggies, and three types of meat with a little soy are amazingly flavorful when they’re fresh and never frozen. Unlike American Chinese food, this Japanese restaurant doesn’t fry everything and doesn’t coat everything in a sugary sauce. The result feels very healthful but also very filling, and those two attributes don’t always appear near each other.

Tamuki is the self-proclaimed first smokeless yakiniku grill in Albuquerque, but it’s not the first teppanyaki spot.

Alongside the barbecue style (cook-your-own) and the teppanyaki style (chef-prepared), Tamuki also serves reasonably priced fresh sushi.

Service was excellent and fast and friendly, but it wasn’t overbearing. One of my least favorite parts of traditional Japanese restaurants is all the theatrics and personal attention. At Takumi, I was able to disappear in a booth and really focus on the flavors.

Considering that flavor, and the multiple ounces of protein, this is a $24 meal, not a $12 meal. Granted, I visited for lunch; dinner prices are slightly higher but still reasonable.

The place has plenty of parking. The interior is nice but not fancy. The service is extremely fast (since you’re doing most of the work). Even the location is prime; after a day of shopping or in between meetings, you can skip all the nearby chains and have a well-made meal with top-quality ingredients without paying too much.

In fact, this might be Albuquerque’s most ideal lunch spot.

Takumi is still a bit of an affair, compared with, say, Denny’s, but an affair of the most enjoyable kind. Take a friend who will enjoy the experience as much as you.