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A Roundup of Los Angeles Izakayas

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Hiya all! As promised, I assembled my list of izakayas in Los Angeles. For those of you who don't know what that is, an izakaya is the Japanese equivalent of a gastro-pub. A place to get tasty and booze. The food tends to be some of the least esoteric Japanese foods - plenty of fried foods, dried foods, noodle dishes and grilled bits, though most have very odd specialties that will have even the waitresses asking if you really want to oder that [read: "Silly gaijin, you sure you want tako wasabi or fermented yam strands?!?"] On with the show!


Haru ULaLa - A favorite of Jonathan Gold with more of a focus on grilled foods. They also have an astounding menagerie of gyoza, including shiso variants that are wonderfully piquant. $12 pichters of Kirin. Grilled rice balls are fantastic. The egg custard was bland. I felt as though the menu wasn't quite as strong as places like Furaibo, nor was the food as solid. This seems to be as much of a place to drink as to eat, judging by the teetering folks I've seen smoking on the curb outside late into the night while I've been hanging out at the jazz jam at 2nd Street Jazz next door. 68 East 2nd Street Los Angeles, CA 90012-4203 - (213) 620-0977


Musha (Santa Monica) - A more modern, forward-looking izakaya with a hint of California influence. The dishes tend to be more produce/ingredient-driven with very vibrant fresh flavors and creative twists. One of the great strengths of Musha is that almost all of their menu is very good so just point and enjoy. Sure to be fun for folks from Tokyo as much as your midwestern siblings. Aburisaba, Oshinko, Okinomiyaki (actually Takoyaki-esque). Plenty of great veggie options. Probably the most enjoyable izakaya in town that leaves you feeling upbeat and positive and the latin jazz doesn't hurt the sunny vibe of their food at all. Limited and fairly unsophisticated sushi, but fresh. Great veggie options. One note is that this is less bar-like than most izakayas. It can be annoyingly smokey if people dip before grilling on their micro grills and can be a bastard to get a table without a reservation on a weekend night. 424 Wilshire Blvd Santa Monica, CA 90401  (310) 576-6330


Furaibo - The warhorse to eat before rounds of karaoke next door in the Sawtelle area. They have an extensive menu of very traditional Japanese dishes, including the gooey tako wasabi and crunchy roe-filled dried lake fish. The chicken-part grilled sampler was a gem with such a huge number of different parts to try. Solid veggie options. I really need to go back and try deeper in to their menu. Try to sit on the floor in the traditional Japanese style room if your legs can handle it for a more communal experience. The quality of the food is quite high overall. 2068 Sawtelle Boulevard, Los Angeles - (310) 444-1432


Izayoi - A newer downtown izakaya with a widely diverse menu. The flavors are more subtle, occasionally leaning toward bland. There wasn't an dish that really floored us, but most everything was solid. Sure as hell avoid the miso squid leg and raw egg dish which was deemed nauseating by the whole table. Sake is a touch pricey and the place was touch "hygienic" for my tastes. Again, I need to go back and try another round of food since I didn't feel like I found their strength. 132 North Central Avenue Los Angeles, CA 90012-3913 - (213) 613-9554


Orris - Not a proper izakaya, but an amazing french/japanese restaurant in the izakaya-has-babies-with-a-wine-bar flavor. This place is another step up in price, but with fantastic chef-driven creations that pair as well with wine as with sake or beer. Things like curry-infused sea bass tempura with hand-made Okinawan sea salt for dipping. They don't take reservations so make sure to show up early if you want to get seating. A fun date-night restaurant with a changing seasonal menu based on the farmer's markets. 2006 Sawtelle Boulevard Los Angeles, CA 90025-623 (310) 268-2212


Robata Bar - Again, not an izakaya proper, since their specialty is on grilled skewers, but they have a good selection of other dishes from their neighboring restaurant. I've never been a robata fan, but Robata bar has everything from mushrooms to lobster and foie gras. Ostensibly you can order food from their sister restaurant Sushi Roku. The interior is kind of funky with a whole ceiling of rope ends. Personally if I was out that way in Santa Monica, I would eat at Bar Pinxto across the street, but that's probably just my fondness for wine talking. 1401 Ocean Ave Santa Monica, CA 90401 (424) 214-0964


Raku - This is an izakaya with Korean influences and a fairly standard menu. The food tends toward a more standard, bland, side of fried. The sushi wasn't very good. Some of the dishes tasted quite similar. I wasn't particularly struck by any dish, but maybe there are a few gems hiding. Need to take another visit to check in on it. They have another location downtown that I haven't eaten at. 11678 West Olympic Boulevard, Los Angeles - (310) 478-3090


Izakayas I have had recommended but haven't eaten at:


Nanbankan @ 11330 Santa Monica Boulevard · West Los Angeles CA 90025 (I've been warned the door to this place can be tricky to find - seems to be an authentic yakitori-style place). (310) 478-1591


Sasaya @ 11613 Santa Monica Boulevard, Los Angeles - (I've been told by a good source that this place is a strong contender for the king of Los Angeles izakayas). (310) 477-4404

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