The space at the bottom of 500 East Pine has gone through some radical transformations over the years. We had fun sampling IPAs at World Of Beers, and we also sang a few too many karaoke ballads in the style of death metal at 500 East: A Social Club. It was a good idea at the time. Now, Tamari Bar is in the picture. It’s the most promising place to grace this location in recent memory, and we hope it sticks around.
When you first enter this Japanese izakaya, the entire staff shouts a warm greeting, which is already better than the,“Uh, how many?” you’d get anywhere else in Capitol Hill. Then, you should fill the table with sushi rolls, spicy dan dan noodles, a tiny wooden staircase topped with sashimi, and a dish of marinated wagyu beef that you cook yourself on a scorching hot stone. This beef alone warrants a visit—it’s as exciting to prepare as it is tasty. The food also comes out pretty quickly here, making it perfect for casual grazing with a few rounds of gingery Toki whiskey highballs or yuzu Old Fashioneds. These cocktails are way better than the pints of Manny’s you might be drinking later at Linda’s or Bill’s.
photo credit: Nate Watters
Depending on what the rest of your night has in store, Tamari Bar works for several different kinds of situations. It’s a good option when you want a calmish evening: for instance, you could show up still-sweaty after a workout class with a friend and order some sashimi and dumplings before going your separate ways. You could also have an early dinner with your book club and discuss the protagonist’s tragic demise over bento boxes - although the operative word here is early, because only 12 of those bento boxes are served per night (they’re so hard to get that we haven’t even been able to try one yet, despite our best efforts).
It’s a good place to kick off a night out, too. You could have a lively birthday dinner here before an inevitable night of dancing on tables at Neumos—but it also has enough linger potential to be the first destination on a classy cocktail crawl. And it’s low-key enough to pop in with an unannounced party of three for a quick pre-concert meal. No matter how you use Tamari Bar, both you and 500 East Pine are in very capable hands. And don’t worry, we already found another bar where we can sing death metal karaoke.
The Rockin’ Marinated Wagyu Beef
The wagyu beef here comes raw and marinated in a sesame-scallion BBQ sauce, ready for you to sear on a sizzling rock. Take advantage of the wasabi paste and garlic chips on the side for maximum flavor.
French fries are a divine creation to begin with. But when they’re topped with nori, parmesan cheese, spicy ground pork, and homemade chili oil - well, you get the idea. This is a little soggy in the center, but such is poutine.
These excellent pork dumplings topped with chili oil, blackened garlic oil, and tart Szechuan pickles are a must-order. They’re moist in the middle and seasoned perfectly, with a subtle kick of spice. We’ll take a dozen.
Chicken karaage topped with a “crazy spicy but super delicious” cold sauce that lives up to its description. This is an excellent fried bite to have with drinks.
Hama Cheese Roll
This seared yellowtail roll confirms our theory that parmesan cheese makes everything better. Fair warning: this is a special, so while it makes an appearance on the menu pretty often, it might not be around every day. If it is, you want it.
Aburi Sushi Roll
The signature aburi here is also good, but doesn’t have as much punch as the cheesy yellowtail. You’ll find the same tangy miso aioli and thinly-sliced jalapeno on this one, but with the addition of chirashi (chef’s choice of fish) and roe on top. Go for the hama instead if they have it.
Dan Dan Noodle
A sinus-clearing bowl of spicy broth with ground pork, chewy noodles, and the option to add a soft-cooked egg. Don’t be a fool—add the egg. This works really well as a share plate.
The green tea cheesecake is a super way to end things if you’re not already full. It’s on the denser side of things and trends more cakey than cheesy, but it’s delicious.