Izakaya, a type of Japanese pub, has been a staple of Japanese culture since the Edo period (1603-1868). In these traditional watering holes, people gather to drink and eat small dishes called otsumami, often sharing plates and chatting with friends and coworkers. Originally, izakaya were a place for travelers to rest and refuel after a long journey. Over time, they became popular among locals as a place to unwind and socialize.
Today, izakaya can be found throughout Japan, serving a variety of dishes ranging from sushi and sashimi to yakitori and tempura. In recent years, izakaya has become increasingly popular outside of Japan, particularly in the United States.
In the 1960s, Japanese immigrants began opening restaurants in Los Angeles, catering to the growing Japanese community in the area. These restaurants often served traditional Japanese dishes, including izakaya-style food. However, it wasn't until the early 2000s that izakaya really took off in the United States.
One of the first izakaya to open in LA was Japonica, which opened in 2002. Located through out the south bay, Japonica quickly became a popular spot for locals and tourists alike. The restaurant offers a wide variety of dishes, including grilled meats, sushi, and small plates like takoyaki and edamame. The atmosphere is lively and casual, with a large bar area and plenty of seating.
Another popular izakaya in LA is Kinjiro, located in the trendy neighborhood of Little Tokyo. Kinjiro is known for its extensive sake list and its menu of creative dishes like uni risotto and pork belly with yuzu miso. The restaurant has a modern, industrial feel with exposed brick walls and sleek wood furnishings.
What Makes the Perfect Izakaya?
The perfect izakaya should be both welcoming and exciting. When you walk into an izakaya, you want to feel like I'm part of a community, surrounded by people who are there to have a good time. The atmosphere should be lively and energetic, with music playing and people chatting.
The food is also crucial. Izakaya-style dishes should be flavorful and interesting, with a variety of textures and flavors. Trying new things is essential when you go to an izakaya, so a menu that is both creative and extensive is key. Of course, the classics like yakitori and sashimi should always be done well, but you also want to see dishes that are unique and unexpected.
Finally, the drinks are just as important as the food. An izakaya should have a wide selection of sake, beer, and other beverages to pair with the food. The drinks should be high-quality and complement the flavors of the dishes.
Overall, a perfect izakaya should be a place where people can come together to enjoy great food and drinks in a lively, welcoming atmosphere. Whether you're in LA or Tokyo, the izakaya experience is all about socializing and having a good time.