Perhaps the most fascinating thing about Tanaka — the new shokupan-centric sandwich shop and bakery from the team behind Afuri — is the fact nothing like it already exists in Portland. Part Japanese patisserie, part katsu sandwich shop, part brunch cafe, the combination seems to be an obvious win in Portland, a sister city to Sapporo, Japan with a passion for baking and a strong sandwich culture. Tanaka is more centrally located than Oyatsupan, the beloved Japanese bakery in Beaverton; it offers a wider selection than Tokyo Sando, the blockbuster food cart known for its shokupan sandwiches, and the now-closed shokupan cafe Kimura Toast Bar.
Instead, Tanaka — which opens Saturday, June 25 in downtown Portland — offers a little bit of everything: milk bread sandwiches filled with fruit and whipped cream, sandwiches layered with katsu-fried wagyu beef or pork, macarons in flavors like pistachio and ume, miso croissants and matcha dorayaki. The pastry case is filled with elaborate desserts like black-sesame-raspberry Paris Brest, yuzu meringue tart with shiso and blackberries, a pyramid of pistachio sponge with raspberry compote and dark chocolate mousse. Out of the kitchen, milk bun breakfast sandwiches are simply adorned with a swipe of whole-grain mustard and herbed aioli, while the Francisco — a play on a Portuguese Francesinha — smothers a bacon, ham and linguiça sandwich with an egg and brown gravy.
The inspiration for Tanaka wasn’t actually its milk bread, but rather its katsu sauce. Tanaka’s Tokyo-based sister restaurant, Kushikatsu Tanaka, serves skewers with a sauce based on a 70-year-old recipe. The Portland cafe’s sauce, made using the same recipe, now arrives swiped on shokupan supporting crispy fried pork loin — also available to take home from the restaurant’s small retail section. But even considering the through-line of the company’s sauce, shokupan is the real draw here: On the wall of the bakery, a line of text reads, “Of everything in the world, who knew bread would bring all these beautiful people together?”
Take a look inside Tanaka ahead of its opening below. The restaurant is located at 678 SW 12th Avenue.