Tanuki
Image: Kim Nguyen

Miso-simmered chicken and cabbage rolls with sake-steamed clams

AT THIS DIMINUTIVE Japanese eatery in Nob Hill, sake may be king, but the food that’s paired with it is what holds us captive. Don’t expect the usual udon soup, sushi, and tempura vegetables that you’ll find at most Japanese restaurants in P+ortland. Instead, there’s ebi sudachi: cold, sweet, tiny bay shrimp pickled in shallot, garlic, soy sauce, shiso, mint, coriander, and sudachi, a small citrus fruit rarely seen outside of Japan. Combining salty, sweet, and sour, this dish gives shrimp salad a run for its money. There’s much heartier fare on the menu (which changes daily), like the rafutei ssam, boldly flavored pork belly that’s been braised in awamori, a distilled alcoholic beverage from Okinawa. Even straightforward skewers of grilled beef heart or salt-and-pepper shrimp never fail to deliver a punch of intense, but very balanced, flavor. And after you’ve taken one bite of just about anything prepared by chef Janice Martin, each dish’s main ingredient will taste entirely new again. Closed Sun, Mon.