An Izakaya is an informal type of gastro-pub quite common in Japan, I’ve not eaten in one yet. So this was quite a treat. The room is set out like many of the smaller restaurants I’ve been into in Japan, a bit like a British pub, but with a kitchen wedged into the central bar space, there is seating overlooking the bar and in booths along the walls. I must say this Izakaya produced a fun night with plenty of limited understanding, delightful dining and tastiness. Sitting at the bar/kitchen side seats I had a great view of the kitchen in action, but also some limited help from the kitchen team with the partially translated menus. I liked the fact that these menus had both a translated description plus the Japanese name in familiar script, in the interest of clarity I have written the text here as it was in the menu.
The first item was a snack to get us started while we waited for our drinks and for the first of the food order to come, a Japanese style potato salad made without mayonnaise.
Hakuba pork no Seiromushi – steamed pork with ponzu.
This is pretty much what was served, the steamed pork resting on steamed sprouts and shredded cabbage, the bowl of ponzu sauce was there to dip the succulent meat into. The citric notes of the ponzu was quite prominent against the simple flavours of the rest of the dish.
Hotateno kanimiso yaki – miso mixed with crab meat fire in the scallop.
A half shell scallop topped with a mix of brown crab meat and white miso, baked and then glazed with a blow torch. This was a taste sensation with a strong seafood flavour rounded out with a depth and complexity of the miso paste, I seriously considering lifting the half shell up and licking it clean.
Sanzoku yaki – Tatsuta fried bean curd of a chicken.
I wasn’t sure if I had ordered chicken or tofu until the chicken arrived, I am still unsure how the description plays out, I think this was chicken fried the same way as bean curd, but really can’t be sure. It was damned tasty though.
Ton toro kimuchi – pork neck, meat with a lot of fat. It’s fried with kimchi.
The description was fairly apt though it failed to mention the load of sweet onions that softened the fire of the kim chi, I particularly liked the soft gooey fat of the pork.
Tataki kyuri – salt sesame sauce of the cucumber.
Simply put this was salt and sesame tossed cucumber, coated with loads on bonito shavings
Hiya yakko – tofu served cold.
I really am coming round to tofu, especially when it is served with a punchy flavour, bone shuddering-ly cold, this one was topped with spring onion and bonito. I drenched it in some of the remaining ponzu to ramp up the flavour kick.
I had enough to drink to still find my way back to the ryokan without too much trouble, stopping for a new beer or two to stumble with me up the road. One of my favourite parts of the night was when the whole bar stopped to sing happy birthday to one of the guests, obviously in Japanese, it was quite surreal. One of the barmen busting out some slam poetry or something like it, he continues with the lights dimmed even as conversation returned to the corners of the bar, long after the birthday girl had returned to her drink and conversation, these light echoes of sound as incomprehensible to me as his enthusiastic ramblings, I have another sip on my whisky.