We wanted to do something special for New Year’s Eve, so we decided to try the Newstyle Restaurant Tanaka after two of my Japanese clients told me that, in their opinion, it’s the best Japanese restaurant in Bern. We made our reservations ten days before the event, and were glad we had done so, because when we arrived the host told us they were completely booked for the holiday.
It is less than a 20 minute ride from the Bern Hauptbahnhof to Kehrsatz Nord, and Tanaka is less than a five minute walk from the station, so it was an easy trip. Tanaka is an understated, roomy restaurant with open tables, set far enough apart so that even when the restaurant was full we had privacy. In the summer, the terrace must be lovely. Our hosts were quick to seat us and to explain the menu and the open sushi bar, which were were allowed to visit between each of the five courses. We were told that we could sit at the sushi bar for only 15 minutes between each course, but that turned out to be more time than we actually needed, and we skipped a visit or two anyway because the dinner itself was ample.
Soon after we were seated, we were brought a tuna tatar appetizer — just a mouthful beautifully arranged on a white ceramic soup spoon. The fresh fish and the light sesame flavoring was an excellent start to the meal. The menu offered a choice between French Onion and miso-salmon soup for the first course, and both of us took the miso soup. It was tasty but not remarkable, and we happily moved to the sushi bar for our first visit. Sushi choices were limited to the expected: tuna (maguro), salmon (sake), mackeral (saba), scallops (hotate), freshwater eel (unagi), salmon roe (ikura), egg-pancake (tamago), and yellowtail (hamachi, also known as King Mackeral) nigiri. They also served a corn salad nigiri which was odd, but pleasant. The chefs were quite quick, so we ate all we wanted without feeling any time pressure. All the fish was very fresh and tasty, but I was disappointed by the shari (sushi rice). Instead of being glossy and sticky, it fell apart quickly as soon as the nigiri was dipped (properly, fish side down) into the soy sauce & wasabi mixture. (My husband tells me I’m too picky about my rice.) At any rate, the second batch of rice was a slight improvement over the first, but I wouldn’t go back to Tanaka if I only wanted sushi. (Instead I’d go to Restaurant Kabuki at the Markthalle in Bern, which is actually owned by the same people.)
The menu, on the other hand, was terrific, and they can count on me as a customer any time I’m in the mood for Japanese salads, seafood or beef. Our second course was a leafy green salad with the house dressing, a tart lemon-miso mixture that was superb. I ordered my salad with scallops, and my husband ordered his with beef. Both were lightly cooked and extraordinarily fresh. Sadly, I don’t have a copy of the entire menu and it was a long evening, but I can certainly recommend the shrimp tempura, and the sauteed Monkfish with teriyaki foam over fresh vegetables. (There teriyaki foam was made from whipped eggwhites.) The highlight of the evening, for me, though was the duck liver over mixed sashimi — the liver seemed to be carmelized on the outside, but was so tender and flavorful that it almost made me weep. Desert was a lovely mix of treats including a tiny egg custard, a spoon of unbelievably rich chocolate mousse, and a fragrant Earl Grey ice cream.
The ambiance throughout the evening was pleasant. There was a band with a competent female vocalist, and the music was suitably low-key while the food was being served. They played for about twenty minutes at a time and then took a break, which worked well.
The meal was 135 CHF per person and the green tea was extra. (In my opinion, it should have been included at the table, as it was while we were at the sushi bar.) For the quality of the food, the atmosphere, and the hospitality, I’d say it was well worth it.