As we walked into Izakaya on a bitterly cold Sunday afternoon, we were greeted with warm welcoming chants of the entire wait-staff who earnestly cried: “Arigato gozaimasu!” in unison. Delhi’s newest Japanese restaurant is inside a shopping mall (not my idea of the best location for a fine-dining place), but the ambience inside makes up for that.
A white pebbled walkway leads to a cosy space — red upholstered chairs, minimalist tables with orchids in a vase and white paper ball lampshades that provide a muted, yet not too dark, lighting. But that’s if you want to sit at a table and eat. We opted for the tiny, Japanese-style alcove, complete with sliding doors, tatamis to sit on and a low table. If Izakaya positions itself as a traditional Japanese restaurant, I reckoned kneeling shoeless on a tatami would be the best way to judge it.
It wasn’t a bad idea, although my knees complained a bit later that evening. The little alcove gave us privacy and with it came personalised service by the quiet but efficient wait-staff. A Sunday lunch, at least for me, is incomplete without a bottle of wine, so I eschewed the many kinds of sake on offer and ordered a bottle of Montepulciano D’Abruzzo (Rs 2,800) and, for starters, we went for the Nigiri Moriawase (Rs 1,850), an assorted platter of non-vegetarian sushi, and the Tempura Moriawase (Rs 650). The California Rolls with crabmeat on the sushi platter were really good, as were the maki sushi with wasabi tobiko (green fish-roe) on top. The other moriawase had, besides the usual prawns, tempura-style sardines, which were a delight.
It being a cold day, we ordered soup — Miso Shiru (Rs 195), which came with tasty tofu and at the right temperature — and then moved on to the main courses. From the teppanyaki section, we ordered the Tori Momo (Rs 450). In this context, momo doesn’t mean a dumpling but a leg. Yes, and tori is poultry or chicken. The teppan-style Tori Momo was great-tasting grilled boneless meat from chicken legs. We went a bit wrong with the Buta Fillet (Rs 475) or pork cutlets, which turned out to be dry and chewy, but the pièce de resistance of the meal was the deliciously fatty Kaku Ni (Rs 777). It’s slow-simmered stewed pork belly and is believed to be a dish from Nagasaki. All of this we accompanied with a portion of Yaki Soba noodles (Rs 395). The extremely tender pork belly (and, of course, its fat) was a treat, although I don’t know what it does for your weight. I made a quick mental note of running an extra mile the next morning on the treadmill.
The food at Izakaya didn’t quite reach up to the best I’ve had in Japanese traditional fare here in Delhi (for that, you should still head over to Sakura), but it wasn’t bad at all. Izakaya, I learnt, is Japanese for a bar that also serves food to accompany drinks. And, on the way out, amid the chants of farewell from the staff, I spotted a well-stocked and inviting bar. The next time I’ll probably see whether the place lives up to its true meaning.