Patrick Henderson 10 a.m., Feb. 19
The Rocking Tanuki
Mission Valley Japanese restaurant has a cute name, but it's no hidden gem.
I wanted to go to the Rocking Tanuki (6110 Friars Road, 619-294-4404) because I liked the name. “Tanuki” means the Japanese raccoon dog, which looks like a cross between a fox and a raccoon. I don’t know exactly how one might “rock,” but I can only assume it would be adorable. I also confess, after Sushi Tadokoro, that I was inspired by the idea of a Japanese restaurant tucked in an out-of-the-way minimall in the company of a liquor store! Rocking Tanuki bears superficial resemblance to Tadokoro in that both are small and unassuming, but the similarities ended there for me.
My welcome was lukewarm at best, as though the staff wasn’t happy to see a customer walk in to the borderline empty restaurant. That unenthusiastic reception carried over into the food, which was on the low side of average. The most noticeably lacking component was the rice. Dull and gummy, it brought down a plate of tekka don (tuna over sushi rice for $10.95) that should have been good.
Rolls covered in mayonnaise and sweet brown eel sauce were better bets, since even mediocre rice and fish benefit from a splashing of rich, salty sauces. They have the advantage of being inexpensive, with lots of the “specialty rolls” in the $7-$8 price range.
The only thing that really stood out was a soft shell crab hand roll. For $8, it didn’t seem like a bad deal and the crab was nicely fried.
Mission Valley’s not exactly overflowing with rad eateries. If there are, please tell me so I can go check them out. If I lived right around the corner, I’d probably pop in to the Rocking Tanuki every now and again by virtue of proximity. The restaurant has no liquor license and my internet spelunking reveals that they’ll let you BYOB if you want to get wrecked and eat mediocre sushi. That DIY, renegade charm appeals to me, but not enough to make another special trip. It wasn't that cheap.