A gift to the fine art of wining, dining, and partaking of vast amounts of beer—without ever quite letting you feel like an alcoholic.
I love your standard izakaya; they're one of the Japanese gifts to the fine art of wining, dining, and partaking of vast amounts of beer—without ever quite letting you feel like an alcoholic.
The food is sensational, and it runs the gamut between hideously healthy (sashimi, for example, which is the stand-out for me) to frighteningly fatty (my favourite of these latter treasures being a standard dish at most izakayas: ika.
Think glorious, full-cholesterol Kewpie mayonnaise swamped over oily, fried squid. Yum).
Then there are the dips into daring: basashi (raw horse meat) and shishamo (grilled smelts that are stuffed with roe and that you eat whole, head and tail and all, with a smidgeon of that ethereal mayonnaise I mentioned). For the even more adventurous, think raw octopus mixed with wasabi, and you might be lucky enough to stumble across inago—grasshoppers cooked in miso.
Izakayas are located everywhere all over Japan, from smaller towns to the metropolises like Tokyo and Osaka (where they’re basically on every corner, downstairs in basements, hidden up alleyways, and up above you on the 5th to 17th floor of towering buildings.
While the wet-towels (oshibori) at the beginning of proceedings serves to wipe away the grime of a hard day’s whatever and the grit of Tokyo pollution, the service from the hyperactive, eternally smiling staff is awe-inspiring stuff.
Even better, if you don’t speak the local lingo or get the gist of kanji, there're picture menus (the ones for the larger establishments are often fold-out contraptions in excess of one square metre) to get you through the experience, and they even rate the calories included in each dish and drink.
I could go on and on. I worship at these places, and I'd speak in tongues to demonstrate this devotion, if I just knew how. Frustratio iracundia.