Tanuki, Miami
A large corporation that encompasses many restaurants under its umbrella, including a large Russian chain of Pan Asian food, brought its first brand to America, in South Beach with Tanuki opening in August 2016. It serves sushi, dim sum, robata meats, buns, tacos, noodles, rice, and even Peking duck. That sends out a red flag to me immediately, because how can a restaurant shine when it specializes in too many things? And the menu is extensive here with over 150 items.

You are greeted outside by a very attractive Russian hostess (bouncer??). The 100 seat restaurant is lively, and colorful, with graffiti-covered walls, reclaimed wood and yellow leather banquets with blond wood tables and digital lights accenting a long wrap around bar. Samurai swords decorate the walls. The central focus of the room is a seven-foot statue of a Tanuki, a Japanese talisman said to bring good luck. I will admit it was a cool, hip space. The restaurant is located at 1080 Alton Road and is open daily for lunch and dinner as well as late night dining. The crowd is young and unfashionable and seems to be a mix of tourists, Lincoln Road dwellers and people who may live near by. T-shirts, jeans, shorts, flip flops, running shoes, and tight dresses are de rigour. You get the picture. I wanted to run for the hills but I was also intrigued to see why this spot has over 60 locations in Moscow alone. Firstly, it was a fun casual environment. The prices are mid range and a lot less expensive than other sushi spots. Our waiter Jessie was friendly even though he was also good at trying to upsell.

The best dish of the evening was a raw scallop with black truffles and crispy tempura bits. It had a wonderful balance of crispy and creamy textures. The pear wrapped in salmon was a nice combination as well. The truffled yellowtail maki was recommended but honestly tasted and looked like a generic roll that you would find anywhere. The snapper wrapped in lettuce leaf looked beautiful but was also lacking and tasted mediocre. The spicy shrimp dim sum fared better. One dish that we actually returned was the soft shell crab bun. Firstly when you are serving a crispy crab, the bun should be soft and fresh. Here they grill it so there is too much crispness. Also, the soft shell crabs were not fried fresh, but ahead of time. They should come straight from the pan to the bun to the table. They were stale, dry and tasteless. At least our server removed it from our final bill. For dessert a serving of four flavours of mochi, with lychee being the best.

I tried a signature cocktail that looked amazing but made me pucker and cringe. It sat on the table. A better bet was the sake. There were some impressive selections there.

A few other annoyances were the rushing of dinner. Does anyone want four plates brought out at once? This is a pet peeve of mine. It is so much more enjoyable to savour one or two things at a time. Another pet peeve, don’t add suggested tip or a tip on top of the tax!!!! Why should I tip on the tax? So an 18% tip is really 20%! That is a money grab. Florida you must stop doing this!! I see this in too many restaurants.

So in conclusion, I would say the concept and ambiance is good with a comfortable and nicely appointed space, but the quality and execution is fair.

Happy Dining,
Shanea

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