Perhaps you think Japanese people are shy? Want a different impression? Visit an Izakaya! (a casual Japanese gastropub) Whether you’re a worker needing to rewind or a tourist fatigued by sensory overload the Izakaya is the perfect way to end your day! Raucous & informal the Izakaya offers respite for all. Not to mention it’s the ideal place to enjoy a beer, hoppy, shochu, sake, cocktail or sour or two! Non-drinkers are well catered for too so you’ve no excuse not to go.
Japan’s Most Popular Izakaya Chain
Mobal Tip: commit to memory the red and/or white signs in the above image. They’re your shortcut to finding 2 of Japan’s most popular Izakaya chains- Watami & Za Watami! The Wa” (和) represents Japan and inspires the interior ambience of wood, lanterns, low tables & traditional food. The food menu is like a book of magical spells where everything served comes out looking exactly like the photo. Check out Watami’s food menu in advance by clicking here!
The Way of Izakaya
It’s been well-documented but worth mentioning that many Izakayas have a per person table charge that’s not mentioned beforehand. It often takes the form of a simple starter dish known as “Otoshi”. The good news is that it’s usually a negligible fee & offset by other tantalizing items on offer!
Izakaya Food- what to expect
The variety of the food on offer at an Izakaya is epic. Each Izakaya offers something different so let’s look at what Japan’s biggest Izakaya chain offer! Watami divide their food menu into the following categories;
- Salads & Veggie Bites: Japanese-style, Caesar, Chicken Tofu, Creamy Avocado & Tomato & Caprese options
- Sashimi: Variety Bowls, Horsemeat, Salmon, Scallops, Tuna, Shrimp, Squid & Mackerel to choose from
- Seafood (cooked): A Mackerel-type fish known as “Hokke“, grilled skate fin & crab claws
- Small Dishes: Soybeans, Octopus in Wasabi, Shark Cartilage (Baisuisho), Quail Eggs, Tofu, Pickles, Kimchi all vie for your attention
- Yakitori: Every foreigner’s favourite menu has everything from the staple negima (chicken & green onion-recommended!) to chicken hearts, chicken skin and chicken bum-bum.
- Fried Food: Fried Chicken, Fried Mozarella, Cheese & Potato fries, Crab Croquettes, Chips/French Fries, Lotus Plant fries, Deep-fried Ham cutlets, etc
- Recommended: Margerita Pizza, Chicken Teriyaki Pizza, Cubes of Sirloin Steak, Frankfurters, etc
- Main Dishes: Yakisoba Noodles, Tuna Maki-sushi, Seared Salmon Sushi, Shrimps w/Fried Rice, Egg Fried Rice, Udon Noodles, Onigiri Rice Balls
- Desserts: Organic Fromage Blanc, Ice-cream cake, Japanese red-bean cake in the shape of a fish, Chocolate cake, Frozen Yoghurt & selection of ice-creams
Izakaya Drink- what to expect
Typically an Izakaya runs on beer. Most people will start with a beer and follow their mood from there. Again the menu choice is extraordinary so we’ll use the Watami menu as our guide!
- Beer & Hoppy: That’s a sentence that just makes me smile. If you’ve not heard of Hoppy before click here. Pretty sure you’ve heard of beer so here goes! Small beer, Medium Beer, Big Beer & Beer in a bottle. Not so complicated!
- Highballs: Whiskey is a really popular drink in Japan and can be really good. The cheaper stuff is best drank as a highball (with ice & soda) however. You can choose a top-shelf or bargain basement whiskey- the price is the best indicator.
- Whiskey: No soda on this menu- this one’s for the purists. Get a single shot of the cheap & cheerful Suntory Kaku for 390 yen or a Yamazaki Single Malt for 590 yen. Heck why not get the whole bottle- a bottle of single malt sells for 6,990 yen!
- Sours: Sours can often be sweet but they’re always a heady mix of shochu alcohol with flavored soda water. Choose from lemon, grapefruit, peach, pineapple, etc. Excellent thirst-quenchers!
The menu is breathtaking and we’re not even at the end. One option however is to simply have it all. Choose the drink as much as you like course (excuse me…the what? click here to know more). For about 2,000 yen for 2 hours you can drink as much on this menu as you like 😉
After 2 hours of sampling this stuff your shyness will be cured too!