In the end, we arrived almost five minutes late past their fifteen-minute restriction (as I am, again, my mothers' daughter and hadn't really made a 'concrete' reservation with Izzo. :). The host waved off my apology, and we were seated promptly in their section of tables for two along the north wall.
What izakaya visit would be complete without an ebi mayo? It was one of the first things we ordered; it was a slightly smaller portion (and weight count) than other izakayas, but the taste and workmanship were there. We also ordered a zakkushi set which included a grilled skewer each of momo (chicken thigh with sauce), oropon beef (beef with Japanese radish and ponzu), me maki (garlic wrapped with pork slices), p-toro (crunchy & juicy pork - pork belly, I believe?), umeshiso maki (chicken thigh wrapped with shiso leaf and plum). The grilled items were all succulent, with an almost perfect balance of bitter char from the grill, and juicy tender bite of the respective meats. This is a must order for next time, or for zakkushi beginners.
Part of the reason why I like eating with Izzo is that we like a lot of the same foods. Moreover, she likes foods that M would not usually eat, either. This makes me very happy! :p One dish that I *knew* would catch her eye was the ahi tuna poke. Of course, she did not prove my instincts wrong, and it was one of her first choices.
Fresh, buttery red tuna chunks with cubes of smooth ripe avocado, fresh green onion, a simple sesame soy sauce, and garnished with a dollop of crunchy tobiko. The poke was served with a wooden spoon and nori sheets for wrapping. We enjoyed this a lot; the play on the contrasting textures and simple flavours made this another must-order.
The next round of ordering included bukakke soba, chicken wasabi, and uzura age. I almost spit out my tea when I was reading the menu where the above items were listed (google / wikipedia at your own risk!). I'd only seen it referred to in the old RBJ forums as something quite perverted. Thus, I had to order it, just to see. lol (Yes, I know I opened myself up for some serious heckling.)
The bukakke soba came first: cold soba (buckwheat) noodles, poached egg, deep fried shrimp, and crunchy tobiko served with a side of hot broth. It is meant to be served by mixing the ingredients together and moistening with the hot broth. The bukkake soba was refreshing in that it was filling, but probably the least greasy thing we that night.
We were warned that the skewer of wasabi yaki (grilled chicken topped with wasabi) was quite hot (temperature and spice level) but found it to be lacking spiciness. While it wasn't disappointing, it would have been nice to have a spicier wasabi, or more of it to taste it was it was intended to be.
The uzura age, takoyaki style (quail egg breaded and fried, topped with takoyaki ingredients like seaweed strips, takoyaki sauce, bonito flakes, and mayo) was addictive and rich. While it was only on their montly "fresh sheet", I hope that it makes it to their regular menu!
There was also an order of "teriyaki norimayo sausage / teriyaki-seaweed-mayo-black hog sausage" (also from the monthly fresh sheet) on this first night. When I suggested it to Izzo, she heard something else. Hint? Say the text within the quotations above. Yes, girls are quite perverted when there are no males around!
The night was rounded out with an order of the amazake affogato. Vanilla ice cream topped with matcha powder, served with amazake, an unfiltered, fermented sake-like sauce. There is a little alcohol in the amazake, and it was paired nicely with the bitter matcha and sweet, smooth ice cream. I'd order this again.
On the second night, M and I made a last minute reservation. Unfortunately, we were seated in the group area along the south wall which held a bunch of drunk twenty-somethings celebrating a birthday. It was all good though - it added to the atmosphere of the izakaya (although I informed the host on our way out that the birthday boy would need a bucket very shortly).
We started with a flight of sakes - I liked that there was a range; one daiginjo, one ginjo, one junmai. They differed in their unfiltered / filtered states, and degree of polishing of the rice grain itself. I have to go back to "sake school" to remember what the differences were! The sakes went well with a lot of food we had (although it didn't last long) - I was impressed by Zakkushis' selection.
An order of kakishiso (shiso leaf-wrapped oyster in tempura batter) was up first. The dish could have been hotter and the tempura crispier. The oyster could have used some seasoning as well - this was not one of Zakkushis' stronger dishes.
Another disappointing dish was the barisoba salad. The menu describes it as being green salad, nori, green onions, crunchy soba noodles, and chefs' special dressing. What we got was exactly that, but there was so much of the strong balsamic dressing, and the dressing was so salty, that we left a lot of it on the plate. When the waitress came to collect the plate we let her know about it, but her response was indifferent ("Oh, was it?").
If you follow my twitter, you may have caught my tweet about the next dish, Uzura Maki. Quail egg wrapped in seasoned pork slices, then grilled. It was so good. The quail egg was rich, and complemented by the juicy, seasoned pork. Kind of a delicious twist on eggs and ham, perhaps?
We also ordered a pair of the teriyaki norimayo black hog sausage (five times fast). As usual, it did not disappoint. Juicy flavourful sausage, topped with teriyaki sauce, mayonnaise, and strips of seaweed. At right, wasa beef. Much like the wasabi yaki on the previous visit, the wasabi did not show. It barely registered on the spiciness scale, but at least the beef was flavourful.
The next dish was torched at the table. The sake butter on our beef sirloin steak was melted by our server. Was it necessary? I guess not, but it was a good show! :) The beef was tender - M really enjoyed his choice. The butter? We couldn't really detect strong sake notes, but the sweet garlicky butter paired well with the beef, as expected.
We finished our meal with a takowasabi ochazuke. Ochazuke is a traditional Japanese snack or light meal that is prepared by pouring a mixture of green tea and dashi (fish broth) over rice. It is traditionally topped with rice crackers, nori, tobiko, togarashi, umebushi, or other ingredients. We chose wasabi octopus. I enjoyed this dish. You *could* taste the wasabi here, and the octopus texture differed nicely from the warmed rice. I'm guessing that ochazuke is an acquired taste - because of its' "blandness", it is usually consumed by older people. Oh well. I'd order it again!
4075 Main Street