Thursday, November 08, 2007
Izayoi: Come for the Food
Ok, now that we have pinned down the very nature of what izakaya -- Japanese pubs serving beer, sake, and small bites -- are all about in this post, we can talk about Izayoi in Little Tokyo. For me, the izakaya experience is usually as much about vibe as it is about food and drink. Izayoi, with its cool 80s-modern interior, doesn't offer quite the besotted, festive atmosphere I associate with izakaya, but the food is exemplary. So round up a couple fun friends, order a pitcher of Kirin, and make your own party.
First the homemade tofu. This is the dish to offer to those who say tofu doesn't taste like anything*. I feel a little bit like a commercial using the word luscious, but this cup of custardy tofu, dressed with a thin layer of light soy sauce really was luscious. And it was certainly flavorful: it tasted deeply tofu-y.
Other highlights included black cod with a miso and soy marinade -- buttery and perfectly cooked; garlic butter scallops, which came to the table sizzling and tasted more Euro than Asian (in a good way); sweet glazed eggplant like little chunks of candy; and tripe! Tripe is not something i would have ordered myself -- I mean, let's face it: it's a cow stomach -- but, simmered in a mirin and soy broth, it was soft, comforting, and oddly nostalgic despite my lack of former cow-stomach experience.
So, what's the take-home? If you're looking for post-frat debauchery, go elsewhere (Furaibo on Sawtelle comes to mind). If you want to have a mellower, but still very fun night, over delicious food, go to Izayoi.
(Incidentally, Little Tokyo is fun! There are lots of people walking around, a dense crunch of restaurants and interesting shops open late, and brand new funky-modern apartment buildings to imagine living in if life were Blade Runner. Go explore! Then go to ceFiore and fight the frozen yogurt war to a soundtrack of obscure 1990s pop hits!)
* On the subject of tofu's blandness, and the futility of adding sauces, a particularly eloquent friend once said (and I should note, I disagree), "It's like putting make-up on an ugly girl."
Izayoi is at 123 S. Central Ave., just south of 1st St.