‘What are they this week?’
Trada’s Asian Kitchen1616 J St.
Sacramento, CA 95814
Whilst journeying up J Street from 12th to enjoy what Plum Blossom at 19th Street offers, resolve falters just across 16th Street. Shrinking the carbon footprint is swell. But re-enactment of the Bataan Death March? Not today.
A bit of fortuna, as Machiavelli calls it: A banner catches the eye—Trada’s. Weird. The banner is on the side of a building that, to my memory, is a Mexican joint beginning with “A” and sounding like the name of the prison holding Harry Potter’s uncle.
Apparently it still is—and it isn’t.
About eight months ago, Azukar ditched its Mexican fare, which included a compelling salsa, and went Asian. However, the dance club—the primary revenue source, based on the number of lunch patrons—remains Mexican-themed.
A little hot-and-sour soup before Salsa Thursdays? Or perhaps some salt-and-pepper shrimp prior to pop en español at Azukar Sabados? “Ladies Free B4 11 pm.” Paging Mr. Freud. Mr. Sigmund Freud. Combining the two names—Welcome to Tradzukar—might be less schizophrenic.
As someone remarked when told about Tradzukar: “What are they this week?”
Tradzukar’s location, across from Lucca’s, has been lots of things. A pizza place begat the Mexican food. A piano bar begat the pizza place. Hence the music notes on the front grill.
On January 29, there are perhaps 10 patrons at three of numerous tables. Alfonso, the good-natured waiter—seemingly the only waiter—tells me truthfully to sit anywhere. February 2, the two other persons in the cavernous establishment walk out as my chow mein arrives.
Being alone in a big room is off-putting. Sheryl Crow thundering out of the speakers how every day is a winding road does not ease the uneasiness. Must be ’70s Hour on Sirius during the first visit: “Superfreak” and “Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around” echo through the dining room.
Alfonso explains that the decision to change menus was born out of lack of customer excitement about the Mexican food. From a strictly business perspective, if the fear is that they can’t successfully compete against Zócalo or Ernesto’s, which are a number of streets away, why go Asian with P.F. Chang’s on the other side of 16th?
Tradzukar tries to tag a lot of bases. There are several variations of pho on the menu, as well as chow mein, barbecue beef and flan. Regrettably, the result is jack of all trades and master of none.
The menu is studded with code. For example, $8 pho with veggies is [45.P]. The papaya salad with Thai sauce, also $8, is [12.S]. At the top of the Signature Entrée list is snow peas with chicken, beef or pork [71.SE]. And so on. Alfonso says the code is for the Chinese chef who speaks no English.
Alfonso says the chef is very proficient with noodle dishes, like chow mein, and makes a “Mexican” version with enough heat to melt the polar ice caps. Marring the first visit is consumption during the first bite of every Thai chili in the Mongolian beef. A fire extinguisher of Tsingtao can’t contain the conflagration. A second fire extinguisher is hurriedly brought.
Even with charred taste buds, the beef is peppery. Cucumber, tomato and carrot—accompaniments promised on the menu—are not present.
For Tradzukar’s second chance, I go with Alfonso’s representation about the chef and noodle dishes. It’s greasy, although there’s plenty of pork. More scallions, onions and carrots would be welcome.
The complimentary broth on both occasions is chockablock with vegetables, including button mushrooms, carrot wheels, bok choy and a few lonely, overcooked peas.
Alfonso graciously gives me the 15 percent sole occupant discount, knocking the chow mein down a skosh from $9.
Unquestionably, Tradzukar is a better dance club than a restaurant. The empirical evidence is the lengthy lines to enter. Potentially, the food tastes better on Friday and Saturday mornings from 1:30 a.m. to 4 a.m. after dancing and drinking up a storm. Potentially.
Regrettably, Tradzukar hasn’t found the right formula yet. It’s flawed, and Alfonso provides most of the moments.