Monday night a friend told me she wanted to eat Japanese so I just looked for something nearby on opentable.com and stumbled on Tanuki Tavern. It’s right near my work in the Meatpacking District in the Gansevoort Hotel. Somehow it’s only a few blocks away, but yet I didn’t even know it had opened. I briefly looked at the menu before going and noticed a couple meat-free items that I could get. Imagine my surprise, though, when I got to the restaurant and took a closer look and found several great menu items that are either vegan or vegetarian. This is pretty rare as far as Japanese restaurants go. Especially rare for a restaurant described as a Japanese gastropub and sushi bar. Usually there is one veggie sushi roll and maybe a noodle dish. Luckily the friends I was with loved all the vegetarian items on the menu and we ordered five things to split.
We had the Crispy Baby Bok Choy with Lemon Pepper. The dish was totally different then I thought it was going to be, but so yummy anyway. It reminded me of kale chips. They honestly transformed bok choy in a way I could never have imagined. I may try to recreate this one at home!
Next up the Tempura Maitake Mushrooms with a Sweet Ponzu Dipping Sauce. A traditional type of tempura, but kind of a popcorn shrimp type of size. I couldn’t believe how many came in this order. Talk about a cup runneth over! The sauce was good too, it was similar to the light sauce used for pot stickers.
Another dish that was totally different than I expected was the Sweet Corn and White Miso Tempura Cakes. I expected something like a crab cake, but got these crunchy balls of goodness. I didn’t really taste the white miso that much, but it was still a very welcome treat.
I’m usually bored by the veggie roll that is standard on a lot of sushi menus, but this colorful roll was great. It was a Veggie Roll with asparagus, cucumber and scallion. Topped with roasted sweet peppers, avocado and truffle oil. Definitely one of the best vegan sushi rolls I’ve ever had!
Last, but not least we got a more traditional, hearty Kimchi Fried Rice with a sunnyside-up egg (I know you can get this dish without the egg, but I’m assuming it has butter in it, so it’s not for vegans). Fried rice can be boring or dull, but this one offered enough of a twist to keep us interested.
All in all I can’t remember the last time I was this surprised by a meal. I went in expecting nothing and walked out wanting to return as soon as possible. I especially love that almost all the dishes I got were vegan. I think just the rice and the dipping sauce for the corn cakes contained egg or dairy. You could forego the dipping sauce and then that would be vegan as well. So yep, this is a place I can’t recommend enough to my meat-free friends looking to try something new and exciting!