In my efforts to absorb (or rather ingest) what Portland had to offer in my most recent visit to Oregon, my also very-epi-curious sister suggested a second attempt (last effort squashed due to lack of accommodating our party of 5). We made it our “moral imperative” to go to Tanuki, a purposely dark and bare bones Japanese/Korean/Okinawan drinking bar/restaurant that serves authentic drinking food. Tanuki has little patience and a strict code, with their sandwich board stating: “NO SUSHI & NO KIDS”. Check and check. Not remotely deterred and still intrigued by their diverse menu and eager for their sake and the Omakase (chef tasting) experience. At Tanuki, you set the price of your Omakase ($15-$30), and the chef with surprise you with an array of items on the menu. This element of shock, curiosity, and maybe a bit of anxiety, just elevated the entire experience. The wine and sake list is nothing short of impressive, while Korean “slasher” movies graced the screens.
Now let me forewarn you: This was not a meal for the shy of palette or meek of mouth-feel. This was not a meal. This was an experience… no, a revelation. Each time we finished a dish, another one or two appeared. Not knowing when or what delicacy was coming our way just elevated the excitement to a whole new level. We explored a multitude of seafood offerings; from Netart oysters on the half shell and tasty mussels, to jellyfish cartilage (tastes like sesame seaweed salad, but chewier:). The interplay of bold, spicy flavors and delicate preparations kept my palette popping like a pinball machine. Just another excuse to continually reach for my luscious, unfiltered sake. Cinnamon tea-scented quail eggs took me back to the days of egg salad from my Korean grandmother that I never had. The Ojingoh (squid jerky) had a tangy, crunchy, chewy effect that was out of this world (better than candied bacon, yes I said better). One of the greatest “S”‘s I felt from Tanuki was surprise. I was surprised how available and vulnerable I allowed myself to be with every dish placed in front of me. I was also surprised how I left my analytical sensibilities and critical eye behind, and instead, embraced that bowl of Ume Suisho (salt plum pickled jellyfish) and really enjoyed every flavor and texture that came our way.
If you are ever in Portland, curious, or hungry/thirsty for something off the beaten path; Tanuki will not let you down.