In the multicultural melting pot that is Marseille, a Japanese joint feels right at home. When it serves takoyaki, the fried octopus balls that make foodies squeal, and taiyaki, a fish-shaped, waffle-like dessert, Tako-San feels like it was made for this seafaring city.
Vinciane and Niho, two women whose petite frames mirror the size of their restaurant, helm Tako-San. This dumpling of a spot is located on a classic Le Panier charming, yet scruffy, cobblestone street. Here, you can dine in the itty-bitty dining room or outside for prime people watching – though when the tourist train chugs by, they’ll be watching you.
Like madeleines, canelés, and other doughy delights, takoyaki are made in a molded cast iron pan specially sized for the task. The filling and batter are poured in the pan, and then flipped with metal chopsticks to deliciously brown each side.
The OG filling is octopus, but you can choose vegetarian, shrimp, or cheese—this is France, after all. They come generously drizzled with Japanese mayo, a Worcestershire-esque sauce, seaweed and bonito flakes that weirdly and wonderfully dance in the steam. These finger-licking orbs can be ordered either a la carte, a mixed bag, or as the Plateau Tako: 6 kawaii balls with a flavorful miso soup, salad, and ongiri, a seaweed-wrapped rice ball.
For another fried delicacy, try the okonomiyaki. This tasty pancake of vegetables, shrimp, and octopus is topped with the same stellar sauce combo as the takoyaki. Okonomi means “what I like” in Japanese – to give you a hint of the pancake’s popularity.
There’s a bento box du jour, whose main dish can include a ginger-steamed salmon and stir-fried beef. In the winter, Tako-San makes homemade ramen two weekends a month to combat the chill. These steaming bowls are filled with toothsome noodles, slivered beef, a hard-boiled egg, scallions and a succulent, umami-rich broth. I was so smitten with the broth I asked Vinciane what the ingredients were – she winked and replied mischievously, "it’s a family recipe,” referring to both its complexity and secret composition.
For dessert, try the mochi – dough balls filled with ice cream - or taiyaki– an adorable gaufre-esque fish filed with red bean paste, chocolate, or chestnut. Traditional sips include Japanese beer (Kirin), iced-green tea (Mugicha), lemonade (Ramune), a yogurt-like drink (Calpis), and Qyuzu, a tasty, yuzu-flavored tonic.
fyi It’s best to reserve for the ramen to ensure you get a spot. Tako-San announces upcoming dates on its Facebook page.
tip Across the street, artisan chocolatier Michele le Ray, La Chocolatiére du Panier, crafts phenomenal dark chocolate with hazelnuts, candied orange, or the famous marseillaise bar.
hours Lunch W – M 12 – 14h30 | Din F & S – 19h30 – 21h30
36 rue des Petits Puits
06 17 62 00 19