Sunday, November 16, 2008

tanuki.

I don't blog about local restaurants on here very often because I'm more about the sharing of ideas and food and stuff like that, but sometimes I go out on a date with my husband and I end up with a mind blowing meal that I can't stop talking about. My husband and I went to Tanuki for the first time a few weeks ago, when we were trying to find a quick, cheap bite to eat before my art opening. I had a nasty cold at the time and nothing sounded good, and Jason just wanted to get OUT OF THE DAMN CAR and EAT. We couldn't think of any West Side restaurants that weren't fancy schmancy (Clyde Common?) or just plain gross and lame (Greek Cuisina?). Suddenly, a place I'd heard a lot about on a local food community I lurk on popped into my head, and we headed over to NW 21st to check it out. I got a $5 noodle bowl (it was a Thursday) and it was the perfect salve for my pathetic sickly state- a rich bowl of broth, with wild boar meatballs, slabs of pork belly, housemade udon noodles, and a lovely floating raw egg yolk. Jason had a couple of other things, and we left, blissed-out and amazed at our measly 23 dollar tab.

tanuki

Of course, it goes without saying that we immediately started making plans to go back on our next date. Finally, last night, all the cards fell into place- my mom stepped up to babysit overnight, and I had a pocket full of tip money from work, begging to be thrown down on something tasty. When we arrived at Tanuki, hungry and shivering from the November chill, we sat down, ordered some drinks, and immediately decided to go for the omakase on the bottom of the menu- set a price, chef's choice. We told the waitress we'd throw down 40 bucks, and we ended up with 7 amazing courses of gorgeous food. Unfortunately, the lighting is pretty dim in there- it's a bar, after all. I converted my images to black & white so it'd be easier to see what the food looks like- the lamps inside are all red and the color reproduction was terrible.

The first course was a simple seaweed salad, topped with crumbles of soft tofu and sprinkled with sesame seeds. The seaweed was dressed very simply, it just tasted light and salty, with a briny hint of vinegar and ocean. We gobbled it up pretty quickly, and before we knew it, the waitress came back with:

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Yeah! Meat on a stick! Those thick hunks in the foreground were melt-in-your-mouth eel. My mom's reaction was "Ew! Eeel?" I think the expectation is that eel might be rubbery or gross, but this was like butter on a stick. Also, some tiny scallops that popped in my mouth, perfectly cooked, and a couple bits of shrimp. I think the eel might have been my favorite part of the meal.

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Oysters! This was serendipity at its finest- because that very day, I'd been discussing oyster shooters with a coworker, saying that I was afraid of the texture of oysters and that I wished I could just have a tiny bite instead of having to worry about slurping down a giant goober of it all at once. My prayers were answered in the form of these petite oysters, described as "pickled" by the waitress but really just raw with a drizzle of vinegar and a tiny bit of true wasabi. The texture was phenomenal- everyone bitches about oysters being slimy, but these were positively velvety. The flavor was fresh and light- I can't even describe it. I've officially eaten raw oysters, and I was completely un-grossed-out. Thankfully.

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After that was a brick of tofu, lightly seared and topped with a mild peanut sauce, and surrounded by 2 cabbage salads- one warm, one cold. The salads were great, and I loved the tofu, but Jason was kind of bummed because too much tofu upsets his stomach. He said it tasted really good, but that he probably wouldn't have bothered ordering it alone.

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At this point we were ridiculously full already- remember, Tanuki is a bar, so we were drinking beer the whole time we were munching on this stuff. This course was a plate of fried rice with squid, wild boar, and a little raw quail egg that we drizzled over the top of everything. Amazing.

If it seems like we'd already eaten a TON of food- we did. And we still had 2 more courses after all this stuff! I ended up kind of muddled and the last couple of photos I took didn't turn out, but take my word for it- the savory griddle cake we had surrounded by a variety of dipping sauces and topped with fresh greens was totally rad. I want to go back and eat just that for dinner. The sauces were like mayonnaise and barbecue sauce, but with a hint of plum sauce in the barbecue and something fancy in the mayonnaise-like sauce. It was rich and delicious, and the griddle cake was soft and studded with bits of something I couldn't quite identify. Potato? After that, our waitress asked us what we'd rather for our final course- curried rice, or miso soup. We went for the soup, thinking we'd had plenty of rice already. I've only ever had the kind of crappy (but still tasty in that mmmm msg kind of way) made from a mix type of $1 miso you get at not-so-great sushi restaurants, so this thick bowl of miso with big hunks of (not re-hydrated!) seaweed was a real treat. I couldn't finish it, though.

So, yeah. I think you get the idea. My only complaint about Tanuki isn't really a complaint at all- I wish I could eat there every day, but it's a bar so I can't take my kid! That's fine with me, though- because that means it's a special treat for date night that I don't have to worry about my kid ruining for me by throwing a huge tantrum or making a big mess or whatever it is that toddlers do to embarrass their mothers in restaurants. This place is new, it opened this year- and I wish I was still going to PNCA so I could go there for happy hour specials every day of the week, holy crap. There was nothing I ever wanted to eat in NW when I was going to college, and now that I've graduated, there are all these great new places. JEEZ. Okay, enough. Go there. Eat a lot. Leave me a seat.

7 comments:

Wendy said...

Oh, I love raw oysters. It's like eating the sea.

I can't tell you how much I wish there was a place like this where I live.

NDGlowgurl said...

so i am a pescatarian but my boyfriend is a vegetarian. this place sounds amazing but would he find enough to eat there?

Alicia Carrier said...

ndglowgurl: the short answer is: probably not.

the longer answer is, their menu changes daily, and sometimes there are vegetarian options for smaller plates and sometimes there aren't. you aren't going to get a full vegetarian meal here, it's not a vegetarian restaurant.

delicious said...

alice, i believe you had some okonomiyaki :) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Okonomiyaki

Alex said...

oh snap! I live like a block from there, I need to get on the tanuki traaaaaaaaaaaaain. srzly. I'm sold.

CrowMolly said...

Thank you, thank you, thank you! Last weekend the wife and I went out with a couple friends for my B-day dinner. Based on your post I picked Tanuki as the destination of choice. We ordered omakase at $20 per head and were treated to one of the best meals I have had in a long time. Great post and recommendation!

Kayla said...

i was just wondering if you like tilapia or if you ever make it. i have a new love for it and i would love to see you make it! mine is amazing, and if youve never had it....i recommend it!