Despite offering its "drinking foods" as part of a killer omakase menu, chef/owner Janis Martin has long maintained that her SE Stark izakaya Tanuki was a sake bar, not a full-fledged restaurant. But after a flurry of recent press (including "Best Date Spot" accolades from both the Portland Tribune and Portland Monthly and an Oregonian review that went live on Friday) suggesting otherwise, Martin temporarily closed the spot for two days last week, which Martin described on her Facebook page as time needed to "adjust" to shifting "Japanese restaurant" expectations. "We are doing our best to meet expectations we never expected anyone to have of us," Martin wrote, "while remaining within the boundaries of what we are legally allowed to do with our existing licenses."
Instead of accommodating guests' restaurant expectations and growing wait times, Martin says Tanuki will remain within the boundaries of its current license with the Oregon Department of Agriculture — by scaling back customer seating and emphasizing food sales as part of sake culture. To control volume of business, "we will be further restricting our already very limited seating starting immediately," Martin says, with half of those seats reserved specifically for Tanuki regulars. "We're not so restrictive because I have some giant chef's ego, it's that we have certain licenses and resources, so those rules have kept things restrained. So now it's like, 'If you're here to partake in sake culture, we're here for you, and it is what it is.' Period."