If you’ve been to Japan, you’ve probably seen a tanuki. Maybe not the actual animal, but certainly a statue of a particular one, maybe outside an izakaya. A yokai (spirit) from Japanese folklore, Tanuki is a prankster and a scamp. But for hospo, he’s just plain good for business. Drank too much last night? The racoon with the sake bottle and ground-sweeping gonads made you do it.

Tanuki is also a shapeshifter, making him a fitting namesake for Double Bay’s new Japanese joint by Adam Abrams and Eddie Levy, the team behind Matteo up the street.

“We’re set apart with how many different dining experiences we offer in one venue,” head chef Ken Wee Lee tells Broadsheet. Perch at the sushi bar and robata grill and watch the chefs in action; settle into the dining room for a refined dinner; or go casual with sake and snacks in Tanuki’s courtyard, the home of a 30-year old liquidambar, a tree native to the Americas that's iconic in Japan during autumn.

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Lee’s resume includes CBD Japanese dining heavyweights Sushi E and Toko, plus Zuma in Dubai. “I’m taking all the good things I learned from these well-established restaurants and bringing them to Tanuki.”

Said good things come in the form of “new style” kingfish sashimi dressed with truffle oil, pickled jalapeno, yuzu and soy. Follow that with grilled Southern Highlands mushrooms doused in ume butter, then some fancy prawn toast with tobiko and yuzu mayo.

Tanuki’s menu also goes big on Wagyu beef, sourced from both local and Japanese farms. You could try it in crispy-skinned gyoza, or as an $85 sando. But Lee suggests eating it the traditional Japanese way: with sea salt, wasabi paste, teriyaki and miso-laced mustard. “You get the perfect balance of sweetness from the miso and a kick of spice from the mustard.”

Sommelier Ambroise Moriceau’s (ex-Bennelong, Momofuku Seiobo, Armorica) wine list leans into natural and biodynamic territory. It’s heavy on local and French grapes, but you’ll also spot the odd Japanese bottle. The Japanese drops live properly on the sake list, helpfully arranged by flavour profile for new drinkers.

But wait, Tanuki says more drinks! Go for a seasonal highball – perhaps with Suntory whisky, green tea and mango. Or a stiff house creation like the Saketini, stirring Four Pillars Navy Strength gin, cherry umeshu and Houraisen sake from Japan’s Aichi prefecture.

Tanuki
37 Bay Street, Double Bay

Hours:
Wed to Fri 5.30pm–late
Sat midday–late
Sun midday–10pm

tanukisydney.com
@tanukisydney