Bubby and i decided on a girls only dinner last night at Izakaya. the choice of restaurant was perfect in light of my upcoming trip to Japan. it's a small eatery, but when we arrived at 7 pm there was plenty of room and we were seated easily. the place filled up an hour later, but was never packed.
the simple wooden fixtures and design fits perfectly with its simple and homey menu. and they have the most kawaii (adorable) hipster waiters! they make helpful food suggestions without being pushy and describe the ingredients of each dish when it is served. it's a great place for casual dinner with friends and almost a good date location except for its poor acoustics. when the place began getting filled, the conversational noises become deafening and Bubby and i were pretty much shouting to each other at one point during the meal.
that aside, the food here is impeccable. it's tapas style eating so be prepared to share dishes. we started with a special from their specials board: tofu and mushrooms ($11). the dish is a block of soft tofu with enoki mushrooms in a thick dashi gravy. it was the perfect gentle note to start the meal. this was Bubby's and my favorite dish of the night. it was just... umami.
foods are served whenever they're ready, so halfway through our first dish, the grilled mackerel ($12), another special of the night, arrived. crispy and salty grilled skin containing tender flesh inside, Bubby and i pretty much ravaged the dish. it's served with a side of grated daikon and lemon wedge which help round out the savory salt.
next up was the addictive cabbage ($6), a simple raw cabbage dish dressed with salt and pepper and a very light dressing (perhaps of sesame oil and something else i can't place). you may want to dismiss this dish, but, aside from providing a nutritional balance to the meal, it's just damn good and just the kind of dish you want to munch on while drinking sake.
the scallop carpaccio ($12), another dish from the specials board, was the prettiest dish of the night. meaty slices of raw carpaccio were simply seasoned with just a little tang, and garnished with ikura. the ikura were perfect little bursts of flavor to accompany the scallop.
before we could start on the scallop, the famous chicken nanban ($15) was delivered to the table. juicy pieces of boneless fried chicken dressed in a tangy sauce and generously topped with homemade tartar sauce. although the dish could have been crispier, the flavor was spot-on. a little sweet, a little tangy, with wedge of lemon for some nice acidity.
lastly, we were served a scallop, avocado, and pork roll ($12), a special of the night, and a last minute substitute for the miso grilled beef tongue we had initially wanted to order. it was a recommendation of the adorably hipster waiter (he was japanese, with bleached blonde hair and thick-framed glasses. total hipster). the scallop and avocado are rolled up in the pork, breaded and fried. then sliced like a sushi roll. while the insides get a little mushy since it's heated avocado, the pork remains juicy and it creates an interesting flavor compilation. this is probably the only dish that i wouldn't have ordered again.
Bubby and i slowly worked our way through the food, oooh-ing and ahhh-ing over the simple yet complicated flavors of each dish. although the noise level of the restaurant was sometimes overbearing, the food was always gentle and comforting.
the food prices are very reasonable considering we were the perfect amount of full and the quality. be aware that the sake prices are pretty steep, with glasses averaging $11-14 and bottles starting at $65.