Tanuki: Restaurant Guide 2014

8029 SE Stark St.

[BUT CAN MY KID GET SOME SUSHI?] Tanuki likes to build its identity on what it's not. Per a sign on the Montavilla izakaya's door: "THIS IS NOT A JAPANESE RESTAURANT. You should go slap the fool that told you those lies." Fair enough. We'll simply describe Tanuki as a dimly lit Eden of phenomenally explosive flavors and more sake varieties than you can imagine—technically, it's licensed as a sake market. Opt for omakase, which allows you to set a per-person price between $15 and $30—everyone in your group must go in—and enjoy the spoils of Janis Martin's two-hot-plate kitchen. It unfolds as a somewhat erratically timed parade, with a server dropping off dishes accompanied by a torrent of words: baked trout, nori butter, beef cheeks, braised bitter greens, teriyaki chicken, fermented peanuts, octopus, hamachi, crab claws. You're left gaping at a half-dozen plates, trying to remember what's what but not really caring, as the flavors of soy, sesame, garlic, seaweed and ginger detonate in your mouth. Think slow-cooked Korean brisket with sugar snap peas and fresh corn, shiver-inducing oysters with kimchee shaved ice, and addictive, sweet-salty-chewy squid jerky. This is drinking food, best paired with a liter of Asahi, a soju cocktail or something off the mile-long sake menu. Décor and entertainment come in the form of pinup posters, pinball machines and anime porn on the TV. But don't allow those amenities to let you forget the rules: no kids, no sushi, no split checks, no parties larger than four and don't even think about requesting substitutions. REBECCA JACOBSON.

Show up early. At $15-$30, omakase gets you a ton of food, but it sometimes runs out if you get there after 8 pm. Or, show up at happy hour (5-6:30 pm) for $2 Sapporo, $3 shochu margaritas, $1 edamame and two beef kimchee hot dogs for $3.

Pro tip: 5-10 pm Thursday-Saturday. $-$$$.

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