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Clam Ramen at Tanto, San Jose

Melanie Wong | Mar 25, 200412:48 PM

During last week’s heat spell, William and I headed toward San Jose to eat in air-conditioned comfort. We tried Tanto for the first time. Arriving about 7:45pm on Tuesday, we had a 30-minute wait for a table.

The highlight was the clam ramen, as excellent as promised. Great purity and brilliance of sweet clam flavor in the light and delicate broth echoed the chewy deliciousness of the impeccably fresh small bivalves in the shell. The egg noodles were more like Chinese noodles with a satisfying firmness and silky texture. As we slurped our way to the last of the bowl, William noted that there was no gritty sand on the bottom.

In addition, we ordered:

Butter steak – barely pink when ordered medium-rare, the buttery goodness of the rich pan-reduction sauce flecked with fried garlic chips and fresh scallions was awesome.

Fried chicken (kara age) – my brother is fast becoming the local expert on Chinese-style fried chicken. Served with a dab of thick and sweet Kewpie mayo, this was Q-Cup style with boneless chunks of chicken and a light barely crisp crust. Greaseless but lacking the depth of flavor of a stronger marinade and a bit on the dry side.

Deep-fried lotus root with shrimp paste – rounds of holey lotus root were stuffed with shrimp forcemeat to make small sandwiches, battered and fried, then served with a ponzu dipping sauce. William really liked this one. I thought the more than inch thick pieces would have been easier to eat and tastier in a thinner cut.

Yam pancake (okonomiyaki) – served in a small round gratin dish, this reminded me of a frittata. The dark brown carmelized surface of cheese was drizzled with mayonnaise, dusted with an astringent green powder (green tea? nori?), and topped with bonito flakes in such a thick layer that they were matted and weighed down rather than dancing in the heat. The interior was a gooey, granular white mass filled with tough rubbery seafood. William felt deceived by the translation – “where’s the pancake, this isn’t yams, it’s pulpo and camarones, what if someone had an allergy…”

Apple Napolean – a couple crusts of puff pasty were assembled to order with vanilla ice cream, whipped cream and wedges of barely heated through Granny Smith apples in hot caramel sauce. The sauce was great, albeit a bit salty, against the crisp freshness of the apples. The puff pastry was on the stale side turning tough.

We also tried the shochu cocktails ($5). William had his favorite ramune soda in the adult version spiked with distilled spirits. I really enjoyed the yuzu flavored one, but he found it too bitter.

We’d certainly go back to try more from the extensive menu of small plates. It made me sad that the SF branch of Tanto couldn’t make a go of it because I would have been a regular customer.

Tanto Japanese Restaurant
1306 Saratoga Ave
San Jose 95129
Cash only at lunch time
Same shopping center as Zeni.


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