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Tanuki

by on 04 November 2012

One of my favorite restaurants of all began as a modest spot for chef-owner Janis Martin to showcase her unique background. Trained under the tutelage of an Okinawan chef, her restaurant Tanuki (named for the mischievous raccoon dog of Japanese folklore) mixes Korean, Japanese, Malay, and Filipino influences with a horror-punk-campy twist. The menu changes daily and so it's most useful to go through some dishes she's had in the past. Who knows, they may be available again!

Tanuki first showed up on my radar since its first location was a couple of blocks away from my house in Portland, which made drinking and stumbling very easy. Also, I recognized one dish on their opening menu that, at the time, nobody had the balls to do: okonomiyaki

Okonomiyaki

お好み焼き
o-konomi-yaki
savory Japanese-style pancake

From that dish, a love affair was born. It was a joy to watch the menu ebb in and out as ingredients came and went, and watch as other customers fell in love as well. The food was simple and rustic and at times, quite traditional.

Oi Naengguk

오이 냉국
oi naengguk
cold cucumber soup

 

Soondae

순대
soondae
blood sausage

Okinawan cuisine is distinctly different from Japanese cuisine, and while many Portlanders delighted in Chef Martin's brand of off-kilter humor, it certainly turned others off. To which I say, good, since it's easier to get a table. The restaurant rewards those who 1) travel to SE 81st, far away from the touristy paths of Downtown Portland, and 2) enjoy a restaurant whose atmosphere and staff reflect the gaudy and outlandish personality of the chef. The drinks are excellent! The food is delicious and is an excellent value. At one time, there was even a weekly "noodle night", featuring a bowl of hearty udon noodles, clams and pork, all for five dollars.

Noodle Night

udon noodles

Many times, Tanuki stays close to the Japanese canon, featuring ingredients that many sushi-shop regulars will find familiar.

Hotate Sudachi

ほたてすだち
hotate sudachi
scallops with citrus

 

Ankimo

あんきもいくら
ankimo & ikura
monkfish liver
and salmon roe

 

Sea Urchin Roe

うに
uni
sea urchin roe

 

Yellowtail Sashimi

はまちさしみ
hamachi sashimi
raw slices of yellowtail

However, I think Tanuki shines brightest when it's a mix of various influences. Braised meatballs and ribs! Sliders made with lotus root!

Niku Dango

Rib Night

Renkon Sliders with Quail Egg

Do yourself a favor: find you and your friends a cab, pay $15 to travel to SE Portland, do an omakase tasting menu and keep the drinks flowing. Take a break with some pinball, trade dirty jokes with the staff, watch whatever is on TV, eat some more, drink some more, rinse (optional), repeat (certainly).\

Tanuki is a must-visit.

Tanuki (named for the mischievous raccoon dog of Japanese folklore) mixes Korean, Japanese, Malay, and Filipino influences with a horror-punk-campy twist.
5 / 5 stars
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Tanuki
8029 SE Stark St
Portland, OR 97215