Taneko is a new venture from the folks behind Pei Wei and P.F. Chang's, but it's not (at least so far) a chain, so I think I'm in the right place to report back. We'd been curious to see what it was all about since we'd passed by last month while they were putting the finishing touches on the building. Since they only opened on Monday, we were anticipating service gliches and were ready to make allowances - absolutely unnecessary. This was a terrific dinner.
The theme is Japanese farmhouse and there's no sushi bar. The menu does have a sashimi plate and a spicy tuna tartare, but the emphasis is on cooked foods. Lots of little plates and a few larger ones - like a Japanese take on tapas.
There was an extensive sake and specialty drink list. Wines ranged from $22 (Beringer 2005 white zin) to $99 (Clos du Val 2003 cabernet sauvignon), with a few wines by the glass, ranging from $5.50 (that Beringer white zin) to $10 (Franciscan Oakville Estate 2003 cabernet sauvignon). We passed on the booze, though, and stuck to soft drinks and iced green tea. For some reason, we weren't charged for either.
My husband and I shared the following dishes:
Edamame ($5), which were so much tastier than any we'd ever had before. After steaming, they were seared in a wok with a sprinkling of Okinawa sea salt and sansho pepper.
Tuna tartare ($13), which was quite spicy, with tempura-fried chips of nori. I loved the nori, but the tuna itself was a bit too spicy for me (I have a somewhat heat-sensitive palate, I guess). My husband loved it.
Kurobuta baby back ribs ($13), marinated in sake, soy, ginger and chili, then barbecued over charcoal - OMG! Pure ambrosia.
Little neck clams in a sake broth with white soy (?) and leeks ($12). We didn't care much for this one - way too lemony. Our server did mention that this dish was pretty citrusy, but it didn't register. Oh, well, out of 8 items, this was the only disappointment.
Grilled "American kobe" beef ($18) with Okinawa sea salt, micro arugula and pickled shiitake mushrooms. This was a nice little portion of sliced beef, served with a mild vinegar-based dipping sauce. It was really good, served medium rare.
Two side dishes: Roasted asparagus with a ponzu dipping sauce ($7) - fabulous! and Tempura battered sweet potato chunks ($5) - equally fabulous.
Out of curiousity, more than hunger, we ordered a portion of warm chocolate cake ($6) to share. It was incredibly rich, but not too sweet, but we gave up after a couple of spoonfuls each - just couldn't eat anymore.
Service was eager, warm and efficient. One of the managers dropped by and chatted for a bit. We let him know how much we enjoyed our meal and his gave us his card, suggesting that we ask for him to be sure we would get a reservation next time we call. And we will.