I love Japanese food. Although a majority of people may only be familiar with sushi and teppanyaki, there are many other delicious dishes too. Thus comes Izakaya – a type of Japanese bar styled restaurant that typically offers skewers and tapas. It’s a very informal setting where people come in for drinks and food.
I went with a friend and upon entering the restaurant, the staff shouted “irasshaimase!!!” at us, which means “welcome” in Japanese. Other than giving customers a mild heartattack upon entry, it’s normal at an Izakaya as a way to greet customers. When we sat down and looked at the menu, there were so many options to choose from. Instead of going à la carte, we decided to go with an eight course set menu which had many of their most popular dishes.
First up, a blanched spinach dish called gomaae. The rolled up ball of greens were topped with sesame seeds and a black savory sauce filled with the aroma of sesame oil. To my shock, the dish was cold but it was an interesting starter.
Then came the deep fried brie cheese balls. It was packed full of gooey cheese, just the way I like it.
The crumb coating was quite chunky, but it came out super crispy. It was accompanied with a fusion of two fruit sauces underneath – the yellow being a mango sauce and the purple one being a berry sauce. It was definitely an interesting mix and tasted so good. Besides, cheese and fruits usually pair well together. 🙂
Fruity sauces to go with the delicious cheese balls
We barely touched the second dish, but the plates were flying out of the kitchen so quickly we had to ask the waiters to slow down! Perhaps it’s because time is money and the restaurant was filling up fast. Despite this, the third fish was a typical Japanese style salad with lettuce, radish, noori and tofu cubes. It had a wafu (Japanese style) soy-based dressing. Refreshing!
Japanese style salad
The forth dish was a hot stone pot rice dish. It came out sizzling hot piled up as a pretty display, but the server mixed it up in front of us so quickly I wasn’t able to get a shot of it. The bowl was so hot that the rice was still crackling well after the dish was mixed, but the purpose of the bowl is to make the rice burn a bit to give it a nice and crispy texture (similar to a bibimbap).
Hot stone pot bowl rice
My friend didn’t enjoy this dish as much as I did. It was a sweeter rice dish filled with rice, mushrooms, cheese and seaweed. Perhaps the cheese threw her off, but I liked it! The following dish was karubi, which is similar to Korean kalbi. These delicious short ribs were flavoured in a soy sauce marinade and came with a side scallion-oil dipping sauce, lemon and lettuce leaves. Very tasty, I must say.
Next, although they called it carpaccio, I’m going to assume it’s because a majority of people wouldn’t know what beef tataki is. Although similar, the former is completely raw whereas the latter is slightly seared. It is also topped with a ponzu sauce, wasabi mayo, daikun, green scallions and garlic crisps. Given that the garlic was dehydrated, it was quite potent but I love garlic so it worked with me!
The seventh dish was chicken kaarage, a Japanese style fried chicken that is marinated in soy sauce, battered and deep fried to a crispy golden brown. Of course, we had some sake (a Japanese rice wine) to go with this as well. 🙂
And no meal is complete without dessert, but can you believe I forgot to take a photo before I inhaled it? It was a simple black sesame ice cream. Usually I find restaurants tend to pre-scoop and leave it in the freezer until it is needed, but I found this restaurant had it freshly prepared – meaning no frozen icicle bits on my ice cream! An Izakaya restaurant is quite the experience. It’s a lovely place with plenty of food options, but it may not necessarily be great for those who want a nice and quiet dinner. Just be prepared for an evening with lots of yelling and delicious food 🙂
398 Church Street,
Toronto, ON, M5B 2A2