The izakaya concept is finally starting to take hold around the Sacramento area. For those who don’t know their yakitori (skewered and grilled foods) from their karaage (bite-sized fried chicken), an izakaya is Japan’s answer to pub dining. It’s the kind of place to wind down after work while munching on various small-plate foods and washing them down with sake, shochu or other beverages.
But in a sushi-bar-centric place like Sacramento, there hasn’t been a true izakaya. The former Jumbo Seafood on Freeport Boulevard transformed into The Izakaya Ramen and Japanese Pub in 2012, though its menu doesn’t deviate much from the typical Japanese-American eatery with chicken teriyaki combo meals, sushi rolls and sukiyaki.
But we’re slowly seeing more places think outside the bento box in terms of Japanese food. Yakitori Yuchan opened in downtown Davis in September with a menu that specializes in grilled meats, snacky foods and a sake bar that also makes shochu-based cocktails.
And now, midtown Sacramento has Izakaya Daikoku, which opened at the beginning of October and 19th and S streets. The restaurant comes from the ownership team behind Akebono on Freeport Boulevard and Ryujin Ramen House, located directly across the street from Izakaya Daikoku.
So how might Izakaya Daikoku fit in the local Japanese landscape of saucy sushi rolls and teriyaki to-go? Here’s what to expect so far:
Menu: The more accurate approach is, “What’s not on the menu?” You’re looking at 10 pages with food-and-drink options. So, if you crave a starter of sunomono, the Japanese pickled cucumbers, there’s four different options (plain, or topped with snow crab legs, octopus or cooked shrimp).
The otsumami section of the menu focuses on foods that pair especially well with alcohol. That means a gang of deep fried, tapa-like options including hirekatsu (deep fried pork tenderloin cutlet) and tori no hasamiage (deep fried chicken with shiso and ume). Another part of the menu features a roll-call of such yakitori options as grilled chicken heart, pork neck meat, beef tongue, and for the less adventuresome, good ol’ grilled chicken glazed with sweet tare sauce.
Unlike Yakitori Yuchan, which eschews such common dishes as miso soup and teriyaki, Izakaya Daikoku gears a chunk of its menu toward conventional tastes. Mikuni-like sushi rolls with an array of sweet and spicy sauces are for the offering, including a Kings Roll with shrimp tempura and salmon. Tempura, chicken teriyaki over rice, chicken katsu and other standards are similarly available.
But there’s still plenty to explore on this expansive menu. Izakaya Daikoku specializes in okonomiyaki, or savory panackes that are loaded with ingredients. The richly flavored hotate pancake includes baby scallop, bonito flakes, katsu sace and other ingredients. Think of it like a Japanese-style pizza with a heavy kick of umami taste sensations.
Price point: Food items go as low as $1.95 for a single yakitori skewer and top out at $14.95 for the grilled eel over rice dinner plate (una don). Sashimi courses hover around $10, but many of the small plates range from about $6 to $8. Overall, the prices work for many different budgets, and a $10 beef okonomiyaki is nearly a meal unto itself with its wallop of flavors.
Ambiance: A large communal table in Izakaya Daikoku’s dining rooms contributes to the social atmosphere. For those who’d rather not eat sitting next to strangers, plenty of individual tables are available for dining. A few TVs are also positioned along the walls for watching sports or Japanese TV shows while munching on foods.
Drinks: The beverage menu includes a wide assortment of sake and chuhai cocktails based on shochu, including mango and melon sours. Beer, sodas and teas are also sold.
Service: Two servers brought our order of multiple small plates in phases, instead of one large group, which was a good way to pace the meal. Staff also seemed a bit overwhelmed at times, and needed to be reminded twice to bring a side of rice. Servers were otherwise friendly and fairly expedient.
First impressions: Many dishes are worth exploring and Izakaya Daikoku is appreciated as a rare Sacramento restaurant to serve okonomiyaki and a multitude of yakitori options. But the menu might be too expansive for its own good. We can get teriyaki and sushi rolls in just about any Sacramento strip mall. Stripping away some of the conventional items and focusing on izakaya-styled foods would provide a more focused experience.
Try it if: You want to sample a wide array of Japanese foods, many of which aren’t seen often on local menus, in an upbeat setting.
Forget it if: You have a hard time making decisions when presented with 10 pages of menu choices.
Call The Bee’s Chris Macias, (916) 321-1253. Follow him on Twitter @chris_macias.
1831 S St., Sacramento
Lunch 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesday through Friday; dinner 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday, and Sunday; 5 p.m. to midnight Friday and Saturday. Closed Mondays.
(916) 662-7337, izakayadaikoku.com