If you don’t live in Angel, you might not have heard of Tanakatsu. But this neighbourhood Japanese restaurant, run by husband and wife Joe and Koko, is something of a local legend. Try it for yourself and you’ll quickly see why.
The first thing you’ll notice is how unpretentious Tanakatsu is. The furnishings are pared-back, without being too minimalist. There are even knives and forks along with the chopsticks. The second thing (or person) you’ll notice is Koko greeting every diner, most of whom she already knows by name.
Before we had finished our salty edamame and sparkling sake, the restaurant was completely full. Koko’s fully-stacked hospitality experience had clearly trickled down; the staff were chatty, knowledgeable and relaxed. We dove into heavenly yellowtail nigiri and soft shell crab katsu rolls, with the latter’s crispiness a hint of what was to come. Any overzealous applications of wasabi were quickly soothed by Kirin Ichiban beer. The gyoza were also perfect, with the thin, silky wrapping demonstrating true attention to detail.
Soon after, a huge portion of pork katsu and salmon teriyaki came with sticky rice and shredded cabbage. Scraping a chopstick across the panko crust, the expertise was obvious. While the salmon was glazed and grilled to perfection, it was the crispy, crunchy, juicy pork that stole the show. At least it did until we dipped the shredded cabbage in ‘Koko’s mighty dressing’. Those who haven’t had it will struggle to understand just how incredible it is, and those who have will find it hard to describe.
At Koko’s recommendation, we finished with soft, pillowy dora-yaki, filled with sticky sweet chocolate bean paste. This, paired with a clever yuzu and barley digestif, perfectly rounded off a meal we wished would never end. Tanakatsu has great food, drink and service, but it’s the buckets of charm (and Koko’s mighty dressing) that truly won us over.