I’ve got a bit of a fluff post this week, but after getting through the book study I figure we’ve all earned a few of those. Besides, when you experience life-changing food, you just have to write about it!
So to set the stage, I was browsing Yelp for Japanese food one day when I came across Sushi Tanaka. After reading the reviews, I began dreaming of trying it someday. But really, who was I kidding? $100 per person for the omakase (chef’s choice) that all the reviewers said was the only way to go? Michael and I had never spent $100 total on an any meal for the two of us! Keep dreaming, Cheryl.
So you can imagine my shock when Michael pulled up in front of Sushi Tanaka for a surprise birthday date last month.
“What?? Wait! Seriously?? Are we really doing this??” followed by a flood of giddy excitement and anticipation.
Thankfully, this was one of those rare times where the experience not only lived up to the hype but exceeded it.
The food alone was worth every penny. By the way, before anyone starts questioning the stewardship of our resources, I’ll just say that 95% of the time, Michael and I don’t get each other gifts for birthdays, anniversaries, Christmas, or Valentine’s Day, so one splurge in almost nine years of marriage isn’t too extraordinary.
Anyway, we both did the omakase, which ended up being 15 or 16 courses by the end of the meal. In hindsight, I wish I had taken more detailed notes on each course so I could give you a complete rundown, but here are the 11 courses I did take pictures of…
(Left to right, top to bottom)
- White trevally with fresh wasabi. The fresh wasabi was a revelation. I’d never had it before and it is nothing like the green paste you’re used to. It’s this delicate, refreshing horseradish flavor with none of the intense burning the paste has.
- Trio of oyster with caviar, jellyfish, and scallop with uni, caviar, and black truffle.
- Seared marinated salmon. The searing was done indirectly with a blowtorch over a piece of bincho (charcoal) and it made for this insane flavor combination of the rich buttery fish with just a perfect hint of bitterness from the sear. So good!
- Bonito with ginger and onion
- Toro with fresh wasabi
(Left to right, top to bottom)
- Blackthroat sea perch
- Red snapper with roe
- Salmon roe
- Uni from Hokkaido. A lot of people don’t like uni and I can see why, but this was so fresh, cool, and creamy with just a hint of ocean-y flavor. It was clearly the high-quality stuff.
- Blue fin seared toro with uni, which definitely ended the sushi on a high note because it was one of the best bites of the meal.
- Tamagoyaki (grilled egg something – Cake? Omelette?) So light, fluffy, and delicious!
The courses I missed were trumpet fish with this really bright, citrusy arugula salad, amberjack, tuna, seared octopus (really good and not rubbery at all), and I think one other that I didn’t write down. Everything was so insanely good, both the actual piece of fish or seafood and the accompanying flavors, and apparently Chef Sei heads to various fish markets each morning to personally select the freshest and most quality fish for service.
Oh, and we also shared a small bottle of Kanchiku sake. I don’t usually like sake but I guess I’ve never had the good stuff because I really enjoyed it.
Is your mouth watering yet?
So the food alone was obviously mind-blowing and amazing, but the ambiance and overall experience made the meal memorable and special as well.
Sushi Tanaka is small – eight seats at the bar and three small tables of four. We sat at the bar and only three other diners were present in our reservation slot. There were open seats all around the five of us, but every time a walk-in would arrive they were politely told that reservations were full for the evening and they would have to come back another time. My guess is that they block off each reservation slot so that all the diners in that period along with Chef Sei enjoy this start-to-finish experience together, without the constant interruption of starting new diners in the middle of what’s already going on.
So there we were with just three other guys (who were actually really fun and funny fellow diners), sitting at the bar just a couple feet from Chef Sei, who prepares everything right in front of you. It really was dinner and a show, observing this master who has devoted some 20 years of his life to the incredibly demanding craft of Japanese sushi.
All these factors just made for a perfectly intimate, peaceful, immersive, and crazy delicious experience. The only downside to the whole evening was that “regular” sushi has been completely ruined for us!
So why am I devoting a post to this meal, other than to make you jealous?
Two reasons, really. The first is to spread the word about this place. If you’re a sushi lover and you live in Southern California then trying Sushi Tanaka is a must, and I’m not the only one who thinks so. Just remember to make a reservation before you go! And actually, you don’t even have to love sushi to enjoy it. Michael has always been lukewarm about the whole raw fish thing but even he loved it just as much as I did.
The second is to celebrate that God didn’t create us to refuel in some boring and food-less way. Instead, He gave us an insane diversity of plants and animals to enjoy in endless combinations. And then He gifted certain people to reflect His creativity and beauty by wielding these resources creatively and beautifully so that it blesses others and builds community.
So that’s my story about Sushi Tanaka. God is good to give us the resources to “eat to the glory of God” in such an enjoyable way! Have you ever had a similarly mind-blowing meal? Or do you have any restaurant suggestions for us? Leave a comment and tell me about it!