Situated on the street level of the new Via6 apartment building in downtown Seattle, TanakaSan is a spirited, noisy place, popular with young singles in small groups as well as business lunchers and small families. Named for Eric Tanaka, longtime executive chef for Tom Douglas Restaurants, it is a sprawling room seating 150 in a sleek interior of metal, concrete and glass. It’s also a little tricky to figure out, as it is one part of a main-floor series of Douglas-run food spots jointly called the Assembly Hall. On the south end is Assembly Hall Juice and Coffee; on the north end is Home Remedy, a 2,000-square-foot market and deli with one heck of a salad bar; and in the middle is TanakaSan. An interior hallway links them.
Servers are enthusiastic about the mix of Asian plates at TanakaSan, heralding Douglas’s return to the Pan-Asian flavors that once defined Northwest cuisine and to flavor profiles the chef hasn’t played with in recent years. Several dishes live up to their exultations, particularly the smoked black cod over rice ($18, dinner only) with an impossibly delicious avocado hollandaise sauce and a perfect fried egg; the Osaka pancake, a particularly addictive version of okonomiyaki, the eggy Japanese cabbage pancake, topped with bonito flakes ($6 lunch, $13 dinner), and an inspired radish and pea vine salad in mustard vinaigrette ($5 lunch). Note that during lunch, many plates are “dim sum” size, meaning tiny. And not every dish is a hit. I twice ordered curried lamb dumplings ($6 lunch, $13 dinner) based on a server’s advice, only to find the dumplings’ skins tough and greasy. And the duck sausages in soft, pillowy “pinch buns” ($6 lunch, $12 dinner) are tasty, but they could use a little something.
Drinks—both boozy (sake slushies! $7) and virgin (try the galangale, zingy with kaffir lime, $5)—are fun and refreshingly devoid of pretension. So is TanakaSan, actually. Once the food kinks are ironed out, it ought to be a fun place for fusion.
Lunch and dinner daily. 2121 Sixth Ave.; 206.812.8412; tanakasanseattle.com.