Twice a month, El Estoque goes to restaurants around the area and takes a chance by asking the waiter to personally choose our food for us. This week, we continued the alphabetical theme by going to Tanto Japanese Restaurant in Sunnyvale.
Address: 1063 E El Camino Real, Sunnyvale, CA 94087
As the 6 p.m. opening time rolled around, a long line of customers wrapped around the restaurant, their faces illuminated by the bright yellow sign near the entrance. Below the name of the restaurant are Japanese characters that roughly translate into “Izakaya,” which is a type of casual restaurant in Japan for people to grab a drink after a long day at work. However, Tanto welcomes all types of customers—families with young children celebrating a birthday, couples on their first date and foodies interested in trying out Japanese food other than sushi.
On a Friday evening, there is about an hour wait without a reservation, but once customers are seated, the service is quick and friendly.
Yaki Onigiri – $6.50
Rating – 8/10
One of the most popular dishes, yaki onigiri features two triangular rice balls topped with salmon roe, small dried fish and green onions. The rice was lightly fried on both sides, adding a crispy texture that brought out the flavor in the soy sauce seasoning. The green onions balanced out the smoky flavor of the rice, and the salmon roe added an interesting pop of flavor with each bite. The only downside was that the dish was slightly oily from being fried, and after eating one rice ball the flavors felt a bit overwhelming.
Kani Gratin – $9.50
Rating – 6.5/10
A blend of French and Japanese cuisine, the kani gratin has a wide appeal, but falls short in its presentation. Underneath a layer of mozzarella and cheddar cheese lies a blend of mashed potatoes and fresh kani, or crab. The cheese added an interesting richness to the dish, but after a few bites it felt overpowering, and the taste of the crab was hidden. However, it was definitely an interesting fusion dish, and with a little less cheese, the flavors would be perfect.
Agedashi Tofu – $6.50
Rating – 9/10
The agedashi tofu was one of the more traditional items on the menu, and it didn’t disappoint. The base is a tentsuyu sauce—a blend of soy sauce, broth and rice wine. Resting on top are four pieces of lightly fried soft tofu with grated daikon radish and seaweed, and a dollop of ginger. The saltiness of the sauce complemented the freshness of tofu and toppings, and it offered a nice contrast to the other small dishes.
Shingen Ice Cream – $6.50
Rating – 10/10
Tanto saved the best for last with this dessert. The base is a generous amount of matcha ice cream, showered with kinako powder, or soybean flour, and kuromitsu, a dark sugar syrup. Small pieces of homemade mochi rested in the powder, adding a soft, chewy texture to each bite. The flavors blended perfectly—the nuttiness of the kinako complemented the sweetness of the syrup, and the matcha ice cream brought it all together with a familiar green tea flavor.
Overall rating: 8/10
Tanto Japanese Restaurant is a great experience for anyone looking to branch out in Japanese cuisine and taste a little bit of everything. The prices are slightly higher compared to a traditional tapas restaurant, and ordering a few dishes can really add up. However, the larger portions are great for sharing, and each dish takes a unique spin on traditional items. The wait was long but worth it, so make a reservation a few days in advance to be seated right away.