I am not one to write reviews about bars and restaurants.
I dabbled in Yelp for a second and came to the realization that Yelp was a place for the obsessed (read: borderline psychotic) or the downer of the group that usually says something along the lines of, “Guys, I think we need to go somewhere else — they only have four stars — and it says they don’t serve sushi!”
But there is this one place.
Oh yes — this one tiny place that encompasses more goodness than I can usually handle.
I heard about it from a woman I used to work with. She said something about $20 getting you a huge and fantastic meal that involved a bunch of tiny dishes and good, strong “drank”.
Her name is Janis. She’s the force of nature behind those black curtains at Tanuki – an Izakaya near SE 82nd and Stark. Now, my relationship with Janis is interesting. We are friends on Twitter and have had the occasional run-in while she’s bringing out food and animal hats and shots of delicious Sake and any other thing she might have hidden in the depths of such a place.
Any time I bring in new people, I always say, “It’s just her back there cookin’ — it’s ridiculous!”
I’d hassle Janis to write a blog for me, but I know she’s entirely too busy. I’ve been wanting to write about this place for a while — so here you have it.
And instead of blasting you with pictures of what I eat there (too numerous to describe), I’d like to share why Tanuki hits the spot for me. Because it is, for lack of better explanation, unusual to most. A lot of people don’t get Tanuki. And to be honest, the people who don’t get Tanuki are the people who I’d rather not dine next to in the first place.
Tanuki is first and foremost, a drinking den. It’s dark with loud music and raunchy Korean and Japanese cult films. It offers some serious Sake as well as cocktails and lots-o-good-beer.
Upon arriving, I go for the shot and sake combo. $4 gets you a freezing cold Hite and a shot of house Sake. It’s a good start to an evening that will most likely involve more, and more drinking. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t drink a lot. But here, it works. And as long as the food’s coming, the drinks should as well.
I recommend going Omakase. This is basically setting your price limit and letting Janis throw food at you. From bacon kimchi buns to hamachi wraps to kimchi-marinated hanger steak and that freaking Chinese sausage and nasal-cleansing hot mustard. God. It’s too good.
It’s salty. It’s drinking food. It’s dark. It’s right in my sweet spot.
It’s a place I can go where I don’t have to make many decisions. It’s a place that has rules. No kids. (21+) No sushi. No more than four people. Other than you that, just try not to be an asshole and submit to Janis. That’s not too much to ask, is it? But, I sort of like rules at a restaurant. It gives the customer some structure and to some extent, some submission to the cooks and servers. As a person who has cooked and served, it’s sort of the right amount of freedom and being told what to do. I don’t know, I like it!
Like I said, I don’t know Janis personally, but she’s generous. If there’s one thing I see and hear from her, (besides pushing back on posh food writers and whiny Yelpers), is that she instills in her a hospitality that I strive for. She takes care of people. She gives us a dining experience we usually wouldn’t be able to afford. And at her expense, the massive amount of skill to produce that kind and quality of food for the price and timing, I feel incredibly spoiled.
From posting pictures of horror film classics, and cussing at her purveyors, to quoting C.S. Lewis and G.K. Chesterton, Janis gets it.
And each time I find myself about to walk in those doors, I get a little nervous and way too excited because I know, and others know,
you are right where you’re supposed to be.