Izaka-ya, where have you been all my life? In the 4 1/2 years I've lived in my neighborhood, I've walked/driven/biked past this sushi spot more times than I can count. For Christ sake, my gym is literally located ABOVE Izaka-ya. As in upstairs. Yet it wasn't until last week that I walked in on the advice of Los Angeles Magazine and a friend. After a mind-blowing sushi experience, I now have to spend the rest of my days making up for my years of missed Izaka-ya delights.
I have to preface that I had just finished a 35 mile bike ride and I was starving. Protein shake be damned, I wanted sushi. End of story. Bryan and I arrived at Izaka-ya and took our time ordering, going for the seared tuna with jalapeno, popcorn shrimp roll and spicy tuna on crispy rice. Oh.My.God. The seared yellowtail simply melted in your mouth, the heat from the jalapeno and light-yet-savory broth giving it the perfect kick. The popcorn shrimp roll was insanely good; it is hands-down one of the best sushi "rolls" I've ever had. Each roll is topped with a tempura'd jumbo prawn and a drizzle of spicy sauce. The shrimp are hot out of the fryer, succulent and sweet. It was impossible to actually eat the roll and the shrimp together, so I happily got into a smooth, shrimp-roll-shrimp-roll tasting routine.
Seared tuna with jalapeno
The crispy rice topped with spicy tuna was invented by Izaka-ya, so I was really looking forward to it. It did not disappoint. Unlike some other sushi joints that have copied Izaka-ya's genius invention, the rice was a perfect combination of a crisp exterior and hot, creamy interior. It wasn't too crunchy, too hard or too cold from being prepared ahead of time. The tuna mixture was fresh with a slight tang from the spicy sauce. Killer.
Crispy rice with spicy tuna
Then came round #2. We opted for the miso black cod and the salmon tempura roll. I love black cod and this was one of the best I've had. Everything about it was just right; the fish was flaky and tender, the miso had been absorbed by the cod and the edges were ever-so-slightly crispy. As for the salmon tempura roll, it was gorgeous. Fresh salmon rolled around crab, shrimp and avocado, them tempura'd (my own word) and served on a individual dollops of diced red onion cream. Sushi lox, in the best possible way.
Salmon tempura roll
It's a joy to watch the sushi chefs and they are incredibly friendly, patient and willing to take the time to explain the ingredients of Izaka-ya's numerous rolls. It's clear the kitchen makes everything to order, so each dish is served at exactly the right temperature. Piping hot, room temp, chilled. But not so chilled that you can tell it's been in the refrigerator for hours. You kno what I mean. Kitchen aside, the service is also excellent. Your glass (be it water, hot tea, what-have-you) is never empty, they're always wearing a smile and we never had to track a server down.
View from the sushi counter
While we did a good job of making up for lost Izaka-ya time, I already can't wait to go back. It just rocks.