Tanto Japanese Restaurant, Sunnyvale
Before I had moved to Singapore, one of my favorite places to eat in the San Francisco Bay Area was Tanto, an izakaya on Saratoga Avenue. The food was so amazing that we were regulars, literally eating there every Friday night after work for several months and even having bottles of sake kept with them. I haven't been back there since then, but it looks like they have since expanded to Sunnyvale (1063 E. El Camino Real, 408-244-7311). We went there tonight to revisit this old favorite of ours...not even needing to look at the menu, in fact, as we seemed to know nearly every single dish that we wanted by heart.
Unfortunately, things seemed to have changed a bit. Sure, the menu was generally still featuring izakaya fare. But the daikon sarada that arrived first was shredded a bit more crudely than I remembered, and served as a indicator for what was to come next. The gariku suteki, which used to come in a little hot plate with nothing but steak and garlic chips sitting in bubbling butter, came out sitting on a little bed of French fries tonight. And while some other items like the asari bata and potato mentaiko stuck true to form, it just wasn't the same mindblowing meal that we had become so accustomed to.
I suspected that maybe it was just my memory messing with me again, but my buddies who still live in the area concurred with my disappointment, so maybe it wasn't just my imagination. We used to like this place so much that we felt that it was better than many izakaya in Japan. And while the food was still very far above average tonight, it was hard to make the same claim now. I am not sure what had happened; maybe it was their expansion into other outlets, or maybe it was the fact that one of their chefs left and started his own place (but I wasn't as excited about Gochi either). Oh well. At least I live closer to Japan these days.