TanakaSan. The name pays tribute to owner Tom Douglas' faithful sidekick through innumerable restaurant openings and culinary projects: executive chef Eric Tanaka. The menu pays tribute to Tanaka's background as a Japanese-American who grew up in Los Angeles eating a diversity of food. Tanaka says that the food is contemporary American Asian, cutting across cuisines and pleasing personal cravings more than playing toward authenticity.
TanakaSan is part of Tom Douglas' vast new Assembly Hall complex, which at 10,000 square feet also includes Assembly Coffee and Juice bar, Home Remedy grab-and-go (deli, pizza, burritos, and more), flower shop, gift shop, and more. TanakaSan itself is big, with 60 seats outdoors (warmed by heat lamps) and 80 indoors (with potential for more)—including prized counter seating for those who want to watch the kitchen action.
The menu trends Japanese and Chinese, with offerings including okonomiyaki (a savory pancake) to two types of ramen, a Dungeness crab foo young, and two types of dumplings. There's also Tanaka Family Fried Rice, featuring smoked bacon, crispy shallot, and a fried egg, which really brings the cooking home for Tanaka and his dining guests. And if L.A. has Genghis Cohen restaurant, Seattle's gets Miso-Dashi with Matzo Balls. (Lunch and brunch feature dim sum-like small plates suitable for sharing.)
Desserts include brown rice matcha macaroons, coconut-cinnamon shaved ice, and Vietnamese coffee-chocolate layer cake. And don't overlook the drink menu. There's a selection of local and Asian beer, shōchū (a Japanese distilled beverage), Asian-influenced cocktails, sake slushies, and more.
About the author: Jay Friedman is a Seattle-based freelance food writer who happens to travel extensively as a sex educator. An avid fan of noodles (some call him "The Mein Man"), he sees sensuality in all foods, and blogs about it at his Gastrolust website. You can follow him on Twitter @jayfriedman.