Originally published October 4th, 2016.
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For the past couple of months I have been keeping my eye on a red awning at the corner of Walnut Street and Aiken Avenue in Shadyside.
It was clear that a restaurant was being cooked up inside. However, as soon I saw the word “ramen” on the awning combined with the best piece of paper in Pittsburgh -the neon orange public notice of alcohol - I was deeply invested in what this was going to be.
Finally, in September, it was announced that the doors of Tan Izakaya, Pittsburgh’s newest Japanese gastropub, were open for business.
After successfully bringing authentic Chinese food to the city of Pittsburgh with his extremely popular Everyday Noodle in Squirrel Hill, Pittsburgh's Asian food tycoon Mike Chen picked his next task: authentic Japanese dining.
Is anyone else feeling really unproductive all of the sudden?
A description of the experience you can expect at Tan Izakaya can be found within its name.
Izakaya translates to “sake shop” and “to stay.” So, the literal meaning is a sake shop you can hangout in. In Japan, Izakayas are casual places to grab food and drinks after work. In America, Izakayas are an opportunity for American’s to experience Japanese cuisine.
The charming interior certainly helps breed this experience, but unlike Umami Izakaya in Lawrenceville, it is not the highlight of the experience. The food here trumps.
The large menu offers enough variety to fulfill both lunch and dinner desires. Personal stand outs:
The Yakatori Skewers: These allows patrons to get a variety of tastes without ordering too much food. The Golden Needle Mushroom was particularly flavorful and tender. I am not 100% at identifying umami, but from my best judgement, this dish was a delicious example. Shishito Peppers are always delicious. I am a huge lamb fan, and the Lamb Skewer was extremely tender - one was not enough!
All sushi and civiche are expertly prepared, beautifully plated, and straight up impossible not to instagram.
I am incapable of seeing the word “pizza” on a menu and not ordering it. The Spicy Tuna Pizza intrigued me immediately and I had to give it a whirl. It did not disappoint. It is basically every part of Japanese cuisine that you like on a pita. This was the leftover I kept running to the fridge to grab a little more of for the rest of the day.
Not that I should have to convince you, but they also serve a variety of sake..... just saying.
I also feel the need to mention the wild card on our table - Uni, aka sea urchin gonads. It was certainly a unique experience. I could best describe it as sticking your mouth into a tidal pool and swallowing a mixture of sand and water. Tan Izakaya certainly has something for the adventurous eaters as well.
Unsurprisingly, the staff was incredibly friendly and welcoming. During my hour in the restaurant I saw the owner and the chef multiple times, delivering plates and ensuring everyone was satisfied with their meal.
What meal is complete without dessert? The answer is no meal, including snacks. Be sure to get the Coconut Red Bean Cake as a refreshing and sweet way to end your meal.
Even with all that^^^^, I only sampled a fraction of the menu, so I know I will be back. If you are eating out in the city, skip the other places you have been to 100 times and try out Tan Izakaya.
Open for both lunch and dinner (11:30AM–2:30PM, 4:30–10PM) every day.
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