Grilled squid with Japanese mayonnaise.
Welcome to South Brooklyn Post’s new occasional series on businesses in our cutthroat mini-economy that are too good to fail. In other words—they are really good, you walk by them every day, and there’s no reason they should be empty. Go, eat, hang out — so we don’t lose them.
Izakaya, our first winner in this category, is a lovely Japanese tapas restaurant on Smith Street with a great, clean and cool interior design, nice service and an extensive Sake selection. Izakaya features, most importantly, exceptionally-good food, from ramen and crunchy seaweed salad to pan-fried octopus balls, exotic Japanese treats and a full range of sushi.
Part-owner Charlie says the whole idea was for a cocktail lounge serving Japanese finger foods, a style of small plates called Izakaya. Izakaya joints are common on the islands of Japan and Manhattan, but very much less so in Brooklyn.
Charlie invites you to check out his extensive Saki and liquor selection.
When it opened about a year ago, the Wall Street Journal recommended Izakaya with an article, delighting in the fact that Smith Street was getting a different-kind of Japanese. The article pointed out that, “although it’s not a typical sushi restaurant, the rolls are exceptional: full of flavor, with fresh ingredients.”
Sweetening the deal is Izakaya’s Happy Hour: every day from noon to 7 p.m., when one can order a crisp $3 Asahi draft beer, a $5 cold sake (usually $8) or a lychee-tini for $6 (usually $10). Japanese pop music keeps the vibe authentic.
It’s been a hard go for the place, which seems to do a good takeout/delivery business but is often too quiet when it should be packed.
“Maybe people think it’s just another sushi place,” Charlie says. Smith Street has a Japanese restaurant nearly on every block, but no Izakaya, and thus the reason behind opening. Why here? “Cobble Hill, I think it’s the nicest area of Brooklyn.”
When you go, let them know we sent you.
What to order: The pork-broth ramen is excellent, with a better than normal broth and lovely shredded red ginger, along with a few moist beefy chunks of pork. The noodles and firm and the dish is filling without being starchy.
The seaweed salad sprinkled with sesame is fairly standard, but strong. The octopus balls are crunchy and moist.
Of the sushi rolls, recommended is the Izakaya roll, which has a distinct Mexican flair. It’s stuffed with yellowtail, scallions, jalapeño, cilantro and avocado, and topped with a marinated tomato, onion and sesame compote.
The Brooklyn roll features spicy salmon and avocado, surrounded my mango and a crunchy something-or-another that is just, simply, a delight. Also very good is the crispy duck roll with cucumber, surrounded in pink soybean paper.
Read more in the Wall Street Journal.