June 2007

Sake Moment - Satomi Furugaki Looks At The LA Izakaya Scene

Posted by admin in 2007, June, Newsletter, Sake Moment

One of my favorite new faces on the sake scene is Satomi Furugaki from Los Angeles. Satomi is the "Sake Instructor" for the California Sushi Academy.

By day and by night she is a sake goddess seeking out the sake scene of Southern California. She has written a "Sake Spotlight" for this Newsletter and recently I asked her to take a look at the "Izakaya" movement in LA. As you all know an Izakaya is essentially a sake pub with a twist on cuisines and specialties that revolve around sake.

Herewith is Satomi's "real time" look at some places to visit in LA when you get a hankering for great food, great times and especially great sake:


Izakaya Review by Satomi Furugaki
Los AngelesLos Angeles is an emerging and maturing izakaya scene in its truest sense. There are many izakayas, casual and inviting Japanese version of tapas bars, where you don't have to break a bank to enjoy sipping the yummy sake and nibbling the parade of comfort foods, especially with a huge community of Japanese who embrace izakaya as a heart of their every day life of social bonding or moment of solace in solitude.

Many of the izakayas, mostly with rustic décor, dim lights and mellow atmosphere, are commuted by Japanese and as many non- Japanese, creating an interestingly cosmopolitan, Tokyo-ish feel bridged by their love of sake or by the pure purist of comfort. Good izakayas definitely charm you with cozy, nostalgic appeal that the high-end dining establishments cannot duplicate.

Following is the list of my favorite izakayas in Los Angeles area.

1.  Sasaya (West Los Angeles) Comfy and mellow

Tel: (310) 477-4404
11613 Santa Monica Blvd. W. Los Angeles
Sasaya website

Oasis of West Los Angeles. This is a sweet, cozy izakaya with a very friendly and smiley staff. Sake selection is large and original, carefully selected and updated by diligent and sincere mother-son team of Yasumi and Koichi. They have vast food menu covering anything from snacky crispy treat through delicate fare, both traditional and fusion. Their counter is perfect for a party of one, where Hiroshi the manger keeps a pleasant company. Sasaya occasionally hosts sake events and very eager to keep the sake momentum going. Mixed crowd of eclectic Angelinos and Japanese expatriates.

2.  Wakasan (Westwood) Rustic and charming

Tel: (310) 446-5241
1929 Westwood Blvd, Los Angeles

This is another local favorite of mine. The cutest and the smallest hideout. There are only several tables and a counter and the ambiance is very rustic, as in an old mini farmhouse. The chef Wakasan (Mr. Waka) is friendly and totally down-to-earth. Food features many Japanese home-style dishes as well as sashimi, etc. Omakase is delightful, filling, and reasonably priced. They have a handsome sake list including my favorite Denshu. Mostly Japanese, regular clientele and many Japanese young restaurant workers in later in the evening.

3.  Musha (Santa Monica) Vibrant and trendy

Tel: (310) 576-6330
424 Wilshire Blvd., Santa Monica

Recommended for a first izakaya experience for its welcoming and exciting feel. Reservation is highly recommended because this small spot always gets packed. The artsy food menu with comical calligraphy features many contemporary Japanese and curious fun fusion dishes like brown rice risotto. Small sake list. Crowd is animated and mixed with young Angelinos and Japanese expats.

4.  Izakaya Yuzu (Torrance) Tokyo-chic and eclectic

Tel: (310) 533-9898
1231 Cabrillo Ave., Plaza Del Prado #101, Torrance

You will feel as you walked into a beautiful Tokyo bar. This classy gem of Torrance is commuted mostly by Japanese businessmen in suits. Highly efficient and competent servers promises the most pleasant dining experience with an excellent service and artfully prepared authentic and dainty Japanese dishes with an elegant sake selection. Dramatic, japonesque décor with open kitchen surrounded by a counter with small private sections.

5.  Sake House Miro (Hollywood) Nostalgic Showa-esque Japan theme

Tel: (323) 939-7075
809 S. La Brea Blvd., Los Angeles
Sake House Micro website

Big red lantern in an unlikely La Brea Boulevard invites you to the good old 1950s Tokyo. With so many props like old movie posters, store signs, and even laundry hanging from the balcony, this izakaya is like a mini theme park with lost of typical izakaya fare like yakitori and gilled yellowtail and short and beginner friendly sake menu. Mostly hip Angelinos in crowds of friends.

Enjoy your izakaya hopping. Kanpai!

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