When it comes to fostering a thriving ethnic community, the local Polynesian population stands as one of the more prominent examples in town. While they are not the most populous group, signs of their cultural impact on Alaska can be seen all over, from the various lei vendors cropping up every Spring or just seeing spam musubi sold at gas stations. As a member of this proud, close-knit community, perhaps it’s no surprise that Gene Grey, co-owner and chef of Tatilani Restaurant was recently awarded the 2022 Neighborhood Business of the Year award by the Anchorage Community Land Trust.

Such a milestone deserves to be recognized, and I could think of no better way to do so in my capacity than by going to Tatilani for the first time to see what they’re all about. Polynesian and Japanese cuisines are what’s on offer at this restaurant which is now in its second year of operation after opening at the height of the pandemic. While Anchorage is home to a plethora of Japanese restaurants, I reckon the number of restaurants serving up Polynesian food can be counted on just a single hand. With that in mind and having very little knowledge on this broad cuisine, I was hoping to educate myself as much as I wanted to gorge on this fusion of influences spanning the Pacific.

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