Tanto (Sunnyvale, CA)

8:00:00 AM

Like Japanese Food? Near Sunnyvale? What are you waiting for?

The TARDIS has spoken and I sense a theme going on here.

Japanese. Sunnyvale.

Those are the two variables for the posts for these past two weeks and well, I don’t know how long this can go on for since there are only so many Japanese restaurants in Sunnyvale.

But hey, this post is long overdue and has been thrown into the back burner because I can’t seem to find time to compile all the photos.

So without further ado, lets talk about Tanto.

Tanto is a small Japanese restaurant that serves authentic homestyle  Japanese dishes. They serve a little of everything and cater to Japanese businessmen who want an izakaya-type of restaurant that they can go to after work.

Table spread of one visit.
When driving down El Camino, it’s very easy to pass this restaurant because of its nondescript exterior. Tanto is its own building, but they sit in the same area as Carl’s Jr. and a liquor store and bar. Parking is often difficult in their small lot, so you’ll probably end up parking in the spaces near the liquor store and bar.

If you're the type of person who hates waiting, this isn't a restaurant for you. Wait times can get pretty ridiculous at this restaurant, especially during the weekends. You can expect to wait up to 2 hours depending on what’s going on that particular day. To skip all of that, go on a weeknight or during lunch. 

Even then, I advise going early for lunch.

Inside, it’s cramped, it’s loud and often times stuffy. Definitely not a place where you’d want to come with a first date unless you’re planning to yell over each other when having a conversation. They do have smaller “private” rooms in the right side of the restaurant that are set up in a tatami-like format.

Tanto is a favorite of mine to visit whenever I’m in the mood for Japanese food outside of sushi and ramen. And over the past few years I’ve tried quite a few things on their menu.

Without further ado, lets just run through all the items.

Must Order 


It's so beautiful that it deserves another photo. 
Uni Fried Rice: The uni is smooth and rich and compliments well with the rice, egg, spring onions, roasted seaweed and soy sauce. They give you a generous amount of uni to rice. You get crispy bits from the stone bowl and a slight chewiness from the roasted seaweed. I definitely recommend getting this dish if you love uni. Possibly getting two if you’re coming with a large party because there definitely wouldn’t be enough to go around.

Yaki Onigiri: Crispy panseared onigiri with salmon and fish roe. It has a very small kick and it’s fluffy and crispy. One of my favorite dishes to get as well. It’s a bit pricey when you think about how the majority is simply rice, but it’s consistently done well. And it’s something that I don’t make at home.

Tako Potato: Super sized takoyaki with the substitution of flour with potato. These are huge and they give you three. You can easily split them into halves.

Beef Tongue: This dish also get ordered a lot because it’s a favorite of PC. The beef tongue is sliced relatively thinly and grilled with just a bit of salt. It’s served alongside a wedge of lemon for taste

Salt Broiled Duck Breast: This is a cold dish that is served with medium rare seared duck. The seared duck breast rests over a bed of mixed salad and poured over with a tangy sauce. I think this was the first time I tried duck served this way. Being raised in an Asian household, I’m so used to eating the roasted duck you can purchase at 99 Ranch.

Buta Kimchi: A large dish of mild, sour kimchi paired with thinly sliced pork, topped with Japanese mayo. Good to go with rice, too salty otherwise.

Agedashi Tofu: Not much to say here. It’s hard to go wrong with Agedashi Tofu.

Dashimaki Tamago: Omelette roll cooked with dashi stock. Unlike some other omelette rolls that come sweet, this one is savory. Fluffy and smooth, the rolled omelette pieces would go well with a bowl of rice. This dish is best consumed before it grows cold because the egg stiffens up and doesn't taste as good.

Grilled Squid: You can never go wrong with grilled whole squid. The smokiness combined with the sweetness and chewiness of the squid makes it a perfect dish-- especially with alcohol.

Shingen Ice Cream (Green Tea Ice Cream with Soybean Powder and Mochi): EPIC ice cream parfait to finish off your dinner. It was PC’s birthday and somehow I ended up at her house and the three of us (PC, PC’s Dad, and I) went to Tanto. To celebrate, PC ordered this for the three of us to share. This massive ice cream was comprised of huge scoops of green tea ice cream topped with soybean powder and a hefty drizzle of a thick sugar syrup (although, don’t quote me on that!) and hunks of mochi.

Order Only If You Like

Onigiri: I usually choose the ones with mentaiko and bonito flakes. But they also have a couple other choices.

Fried Duck: This dish arrived at our table by accident and we didn’t remember if we ordered it. But they gave it to us on the house because it was their mistake. Not a favorite in my book because frying the duck gives the duck almost a rubbery texture.

Grilled Duck: Although still not my preferred method of enjoying duck, it holds up better than Fried Duck. Since duck has a naturally oily and has a high fat content, you would think it holds up well to grilling, but ours came out a bit lukewarm, so that may have affected the overall taste.

Crispy Rice with Tom Kam Yum: A Japanese rendition on a Thai classic. They add these crispy rice cakes to give the soup some texture. The sourness is a good way to open up the palate to eat more.

Fried Baby Octopus: They were subpar.

Whew~ That was a long list. And this only scratches the surface of their extensive menu. If you’re a fan of Japanese food outside of sushi, ramen and bento boxes, I would definitely pay Tanto a visit. The wait can get obnoxiously long and the service can be nonexistent when they get overwhelmed, but the food is great!

1063 E El Camino Real
Sunnyvale, CA 94087

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