Say goodbye to the scallops with pickled mushrooms of yesteryear: Tanuki, Montavilla’s rule-breaking sake bar, is going through some serious changes, and fish-heavy menu is likely gone for good.
Earlier this year, chef-owner Janis Martin temporarily closed the bar, attributing the break to an adult-onset seafood allergy. Martin has been allergic to seafood for as long as she’s owned Tanuki, which opened in 2008. That’s likely a surprise to those familiar with her omakase, which often involves shrimp paste, shellfish, and other fishy things. But things have gotten worse: When Tanuki opened, Martin could at least handle shellfish; now, if Martin eats a fish that has eaten shellfish, she gets sick.
The last year has been the worst for her allergy, but things came to a head when the weather got cooler. Even wearing gloves and long-sleeves to avoid contact with shellfish, the recirculated air of the heater was causing too much damage. “If you’ve been doing something that’s made yourself sick for a really long time, it’s hard because you want to power through it,” Martin says. “I’m from that generation of people who really power through things... But I can’t do it.”
Tanuki will reopen for omakase dates in December, but after that, it’s unclear what will happen to the bar. Because of Oregon’s liquor licensing, bars are required to serve food, which would mean her food program would have to dramatically change. Martin is considering letting the retail side of Tanuki take over, so she can continue to celebrate small-batch sake brewers. But overall, it seems like the Tanuki Portland knew will be gone in 2019. “I’d rather just leave it on a high note than scramble,” Martin says. “There are so many things that one can do, it seems dishonest to try to scramble to do something that just doesn’t really fit.” Stay tuned for updates on what’s next for the Montavilla iconoclast.