If you have ever watched commercials for Kewpie Tarako spaghetti sauce, which have become a minor YouTube sensation, then you probably have an approximate idea of how creative Japanese-style Italian pasta dishes can be. Mentaiko/kewpie doll hybrids are nowhere to be seen at Tanaka in the newly renovated Eslite (誠品) building on Dunhua South Road (敦化南路), but plenty of novel flavor combinations are.
Tanaka’s pasta menu (each one is adorably pasted into what appears to be a Muji file folder) is split into three main sections: Wafu Pasta (和風義大利麵), or Japanese-style Italian pasta; Basic Pasta (傳統經典義大利麵), which includes classic meat sauce pasta (經典肉醬義大利麵, ) for traditionalists; and Asian Fantasy (亞洲風味義大利麵), which features Korean and Thai-inspired dishes.
Our helpful waitress told us that Tanaka’s signature dishes are the salmon roe and cod roe pasta (明太子鮭魚卵天使髮麵, ) and the davola chili seafood pasta (小惡魔辣味海鮮義大利麵, ), but I opted to order the mixed raw fish with basil (綜合刺身羅勒義大利麵式冷麵, ), in part because I was entranced by the lovingly-lit photos of the dish used to advertise the restaurant on Eslite’s directories. My plate arrived at the table looking somewhat less photogenic, however, because the pasta was heavily coated in an olive oil and sweet basil sauce. Other ingredients included a generous sprinkling of raw fish cubes and salmon roe on the pasta, which was piled on top of a drizzle of squid ink and garnished with small pimento olive slices. Despite the incongruous combination of ingredients, the dish was quite good. The sauce was a just slightly too oily for my taste but the slight hint of sweet basil complemented the sashimi and roe surprisingly well, and the squid sauce provided an unexpected and welcome hint of saltiness.