Izakaya, what's the big deal?

I'll admit it, I love food. But more importantly, I love eating trying out different cuisines from all around the world. One of them is obviously Japanese food. Whether it be sushi or yakiniku, Japanese food simply possesses a mouth-watering attraction for everyone. It has been quite awhile since I've written up a WTBD post, so we'll be focusing on a popular type of Japanese restaurant, known as an izakaya.

What exactly is an izakaya, you ask? An izakaya (居酒屋) is a type of Japanese restaurant that mainly serves as a drinking establishment, but also serves various types of Japanese-style food to accompany the drinks. Izakaya are generally the casual go-to places for after-work drinking, a place to kick back after a tough day at work. It's become something of a tradition in Japanese culture. The "居" (i) from izakaya is the same ‘i' from "居心地" (igokochi), meaning, rather appropriately, "place of comfort." The primary aspect that sets izakaya apart from a conventional restaurant is the variety of alcohol available for consumption at an izakaya. Izakaya offer something for everyone, with a great variety of food to order from the menu. Essentially a Japanese rendition of a pub, these establishments can be found all over the place in Japan, including train and subway stations, food alleys, and other easily accessible locations. The food found at an izakaya is mainly fried and salty foods instead of the common rice and noodle menu items that are usually found. Popular dishes include yakitori and oden, as well as an abundance alcoholic beverages,.

There are several different types of izakaya, such as small izakaya shops, or chain izakaya. In a traditional smaller izakaya shop, alcohol, typically sake is ordered along with food, while carrying out small talk with the store's owner, allowing you to separate yourself from the tiresome work burdens and family issues. The rest of the world fades into the background while you simply relax and enjoy the atmosphere.

Typically, customers sit on tatami mats and dine from low tables in the traditional Japanese style. Customers can also sit on chairs from tables. However, most izakaya nowadays offer both choices. As one sits down, an oshibori will be provided to clean your hands with, along with a tiny snack or an appetizer, known as either otoushi or tsukidashi. However, this depends entirely on the local customs the region in which which the izakaya is located.

Customers can order from menus located on the table, or displayed on walls, with picture menus being commonplace in larger izakaya establishments. It's expected that food is ordered throughout the dining session, allowing one to control the amount one orders to avoid wasting food for one, and given that the dishes are mostly small-sized, it's rather appropriate this way. Food is also expected to be shared by all at your table, or whoever you're dining with, with pricing set per person in either nomihodai (all you can drink) or tabehodai (all you can eat) format, along with a two or three hour dining time limit.

With chain izakaya constantly expanding, it's not uncommon to find seating arrangements fit for organizations and large events. Versatility is a key aspect of modern izakaya, a place for those to kick back and relax. For those who are less keen to visit an izakaya during the evening, many izakaya offer inexpensive lunch-set menus during the day.

1 comment:

  1. We have a place in my neck of the woods called Izakaya Meiji Company; Japanese food with American cowboy culture theme and alcohol.