Restaurant Guide 2013: Tanuki

8029 SE Stark St., 477-6030,

[WOW!] Chef-owner Janis Martin's Montavilla izakaya is a dim, nearly unmarked space frequented mostly by a small, self-selecting group of adventurous eaters and service-industry pros; its most prominent advertisement on the sidewalk is a chalkboard proclaiming what and whom it doesn't serve: "NO SUSHI, NO KIDS, WOW!" Despite policies bent to discourage suburbanites and lookie-loos, the bar is full to brimming whenever it's open, with Japanese horrorsploitation on the TV and spaces reserved specially for those who would prefer to drink rather than eat. But its Japanese- and Korean-inflected small-plates menu is some of the most distinctive bar food in the city. It's best to cede control to Martin and order the omakase (a deal at $15 to $30 per person), a seemingly unending procession of items ranging from garlic-bomb kimchee and shishito-pepper bar snacks to mini entrees such as the scallion-ginger-scallop Kani XO crab-claw dish, kimchee-marinated hanger steak, hamachi variations and mussels broiled with pollack tripe and pollack-roe custard. Still, don't neglect the cocktail menu, for reasons both legal and gustatory. Get Japanese whiskey, ask for a sake recommendation or roll with the Dejima ($7), a mixture of gin, elderflower liqueur and rhubarb bitters served ice cold in a cedar masu. But alcohol aside, the strong cocktail of seafood, pickle and spice should be enough to leave you a little unsteady. 

Order this: Omakase ($15-$30 per person).

Best deal: $7 cans of Asahi are one liter. Which is bigger than a bottle of wine.

Pro tip: Omakase is always for the whole table, at the same price. And checks are never split. Plan accordingly.

5-10 pm (or later) Thursday-Saturday. $-$$$.


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