Tanuki

You can’t help but love a restaurant that not only turns out some of the finest Asian food in town, but has also adopted as its namesake a tipsy, mischievous raccoon-dog with shapeshifting powers and oversized testicles.

Ringing with the clink of sake cups, the soft tap of chopsticks against dishes of Dungeness crab-flecked green tea and toasted rice porridge, and the buzz of hearty conversation, Tanuki embodies the spirit of izakaya, big balls and all.

Scrappy Tanuki (the restaurant, not the legendary creature of Japanese folklore) models itself after a traditional izakaya–boozy bastions of hard-earned post-workday beverages and bites served with a side of camaraderie. Chef Janis Martin’s Japanese and Korean-influenced menu is punctuated by unusual and unusually-tasty drinking snacks like the spicy squid jerky and toasted pressed filefish, “stuff on sticks” (spiced duck heart skewers, anyone?), a hauntingly creamy, melt-in-your-mouth hamachi sashimi, and boldly flavorful small plates like wild boar meatballs with sweet soy curry barbecue sauce, wild-caught shrimp with asparagus tips, cashews and creamy XO sauce, and the “an acquired taste,” no-returns-allowed natto.

On most nights weirdly fascinating Japanese cinema plays on the telly over the bar, and on Thursday noodle nights you can show up with $5 and get a piping hot bowl of fiery tantan noodles (definitely order a cold beer with this) or fresh thick-cut wheat noodles in a rich meat broth with clams, mussels, fishcake, barbecue pork, and egg.

Ringing with the clink of sake cups, the soft tap of chopsticks against dishes of Dungeness crab-flecked green tea and toasted rice porridge, and the buzz of hearty conversation, Tanuki embodies the spirit of izakaya, big balls and all.

Details

Cuisine: Japanese

Executive Chef: Janis Martin

Atmosphere: The vibe is social, jubilant and relaxing, you could easily go here with friends or alone

Noise Level: Boisterous, but normal conversation is possible

Bring the Kids: No, Tanuki has a firm “no children allowed” policy, since it is, after all, a bar

Parking: Street parking is free and generally easy to find

Cocktails: Yes, and the sake sangria is always delicious

Beer: Yes, and it's an ideal companion for some of the spicier dishes

Wine: Yes

Coffee: No

Tea: Varies

Ideal Meal: Duck heart kushiyaki (skewers), tantan udon (so spicy! Get beer!), dayboat scallop and asian pear salad, wild boar meatballs

Vegetarian Friendly: Not especially

Good for the following occasions: Meal With Friends, Casual Date, Dining Solo, Oh My Omakase

Group/Private Party Details: Groups aren’t accommodated, but you can rent the entire restaurant out for a private party. Call for more info.

Reservations: No

Take-Out: No

Delivery: No

Deals: One of the best, and most liberating, ways to experience Tanuki is the Omakase menu—you set a price and Chef Janis will customize the menu accordingly. One caveat…no Omakase poopers allowed; the whole table must participate.