When Japanese people want to enjoy drinking in a casual atmosphere and at a reasonable price, the first thing that usually comes to mind is the “Izakaya“ (Japanese style tavern).
The menus are diverse and they are fun for customers of all ages and genders. Alcohol selections are expansive, featuring beers, Japanese rice wines, shochu (distilled liquor), and wines, and the food selections are all encompassing, range from Japanese to Western to Chinese. Basically, anything goes!
Chain shops are particularly reasonably priced. Some places have straw “tatami” mat lined private rooms called “ozashiki” where four or so people can drink together.
A lot of small scale owner-run Izakaya hang red “chochin” style lamps at the storefront with the shop name written on them, leading to the nickname “aka chochin” (“aka” means red). They are usually bustling with business people drinking together happily on their way home from work.
After being seated, first order an alcoholic beverage. Before food is ordered, the staff will bring a little something to eat while drinking in a small bowl. This is called “otoshi” or “tsukidashi” (the “tsukidashi” is usually about 200 yen, but sometimes it is incorporated into the bill). It is ok to take your time to order food after this.
A distilled alcoholic beverage called “shochu” is as popular in Japan as beer and Japanese rice wine. In addition to being served on the rocks and with water, you can also enjoy it mixed with various beverages like oolong tea, green tea, and grapefruit juice.
If you come to an Izakaya with a group, it is a good idea to order foods that are easy for everyone to share, like a mixed yakitori plate with several different kinds of yakitori on one plate or a mixed sashimi plate. In the cold seasons, “nabe” (a type of Japanese soup) are popular. “Nikomi” (simmered stew) with beef or pork “horumon” (offal) simmered in a slightly sweet and salty stew is also popular.
If you want to eat something right away, it is a good idea to order something that does not need to be cooked with heat. “Hiyayakko” is tofu with “negi” (Japanese chives) and katsuobushi (dried bonito flakes) sprinkled on top. You pour a bit of soy sauce on this and eat it. And dishes like “morokyu”, raw cucumber which you dip in miso and eat, and “hiyashi tomato”, round slices of tomato with salt, are also very common items at an Izakaya.
After drinking and eating, many people like to order a rice based dish at the end. Some popular choices are “ochazuke”, where rice is topped with “nori” (dried seaweed) or “umeboshi” (pickled Japanese plums) and Japanese tea is poured in the bowl, and “yaki onigiri” (grilled rice balls).
Sashimi is also another popular quick dish to order as it doesn’t require cooking, it will be served quickly.
Alright now, we’ve come to the end of another food post series:
Traditional Japanese food vol.2
Check out Vol.1 here!