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Oct 5, 2006 05:43 AM

Taneko Japanese Tavern report (Scottsdale, AZ)

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.

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  1. I rather like that it's another Japanese restaurant sans the more familiar sushi and teppanyaki fare. It's good to have varying opportunities to explore more traditional Japanese cuisine. The new, polished chain-in-the-making Ippei (Scottsdale/ 101), is similar in this regard.

    Thanks for the review. I definitely want to try this place. From what people have already been saying, a chain this will definitely and eventually become.

    1. Thanks for posting this review. I think this is an intersting concept, but I do wonder about its "chainability." For most Americans, Japanese food means sushi or teppanyaki. This restaurant takes its customers into unfamiliar territory -- something that is not always associated with chains.

      I'm curious. Does this restaurant offer any noodle dishes? My favorite dishes in most Japanese restaurants are the noodles: udon, yakisoba, etc. A lot of restaurants seem to ignore them, perhaps because they are considered too pedestrian.

      I tried to find a Web site for this restaurant in order to check the menu, but the domain redirects to someone's Geocities page. I imagine there are some interesting negotiations for the domain name going on right now.

      1 Reply
      1. re: silverbear

        "Does this restaurant offer any noodle dishes?"

        There was one noodle dish that the folks at the table next to us ordered: 'Hot" Ramen Bowl - pork, scallions, asparatus & shiitake mushrooms ($11). It looked good and our neighbors said it was excellent.

      2. I actually read an article about this place in the paper last week. It implied that it would be expanding to other locations. Looking forward to trying it. Thanks for the review.

        1. I'm always glad to see a non-sushi/teppan Japanese restaurant. Especially if they're good. Looks like I have yet another place to try.

          1. Thanks for the review, and including wine options -- just as important as the food, for me, a review's less helpful without that.

            My receptionist was invited to the family-friends opening of Taneka, and she seconds your opinion of the ribs. They also enjoyed the hot rock filet mignon, and she said their fish and chips (?) was the best she'd ever had. They ran out of the chocolate cake before they could get some, and it's far and away the most popular dessert, to the point that they are thinking of advising people to pre-order it and not wait until after the entree.

            I'm hoping to try Ippei first. I do think it's a bit funny that American izakaya is getting the Scottsdale treatment, and not the more authentic hole-in-the-wall, back alley, cheap good food Japanese way. I mean -- they're intended to be happy hour joints, not $32 a plate fine dining.

            4 Replies
            1. re: themis

              I agree with you, Themis, about the wine issues. Which brings up my far too common pet peeve: Why must these places gouge us on a bottle of wine. While I don't drink white zin (gag!), this Beringer is like $5 a bottle-so $5.50 a glass is really rude.

              I love restaurants that only bump the bottle price of wine 2.5X retail and try to frequent them as often as possible as a way of saying thank you (House of Tricks and Los Sombreros, for example). I'll accept 3X, if I must. But beyond that is getting really obnoxious - especially when you consider that the restaurant has paid only wholesale. And so many of these new hot Scottsdale joints are going above 4X. I just can't bear it.

              Enough of my rant. Accept my apologies for my bad humor on this subject.

              1. re: jkgourmet

                No, exactly! I can tolerate a markup on something I can't find for myself. But to gouge on bottom shelf supermarket wine like Clos du Bois, that's insulting. That tells me right away that the food might be decent there, but I'm not going to have a transporting experience.

                Maybe the sake list is a mindblower, or maybe they're very gracious about corkage. Or maybe they're catering to a different crowd. But it's an oversight, anyway.

                1. re: themis

                  It wasn't Clos du Bois, it was Clos du Val.