If you haven't been to Izaka-Ya by Katsu-Ya yet, run don't walk, because it took all my might to write this review on my best kept, sushi secret that always curbs my cravings and never disappoints. (Doomo arigatoo Master Sushi Chef, Katsuya Uechi!)
Currently there are two locations – one in West Hollywood that packs in the crowds at night, so reservations are recommended – and one in Manhattan Beach that opened the end of January. If they could only grace our presence by coming to the OC, I think my life would be complete. At least they have a new Friday Night Special happy hour menu.
- my absolute favorite off-the-menu item, Salmon Four Ways: Raw with Wasabi, Seared with Grilled Onions & Yuzu, Raw with Caviar & Cream, and Seared with Pickled Shiso Leaf
- this is your new french fry, Spicy Tuna on Crispy Rice with Firey Jalapeno Slices ($9.50)
- once you pop you can't stop, buttery, tangy, spicy Creamy Rock Shrimp Tempura ($9)
Whenever friends are visiting in town and wondering where to eat, my first response is, "Check out YourNextBite.com," followed by, "Loteria Grill, Cobras & Matadors, and Izaka-Ya by Katsu-Ya." The first time we went, we fell in love, and have been coming back almost every month ever since.
The West Hollywood location, while usually bustling, has a relaxed, unpretentious vibe compared to its upscale sister restaurant Katsuya. The interior is fisherman tackle box kitsch. The servers, like Robert (in the 3rd picture at the top) couldn't be nicer. And the food is served small plates / tapas style, so it's cheaper than Katsuya, but still has the same quality and even some of the same items – basically you're not missing out.
While I've had almost everything on the menu – Build Your Own Yellowtail Tartar Rolls, Blue Fin Tuna, Toro, Seared Albacore with Grilled Onions, Seared Tuna with Japanese Salsa, Nasu-Miso, Shishito Peppers, Robert Roll, Baked Scallop Crab (BSC) Roll, etc. – no matter what, I ALWAYS ORDER these three items:
1. SALMON 4 WAYS: Not sure why it's off the menu now, but Robert (our favorite waiter) always lets us order it. The Raw is super buttery and fresh with a small dollop of Wasabi to give it a kick. The Seared with Grilled Onions & Yuzu has a nice crunch, a touch of Dijon, and Citrus Zest. The Sushi with Caviar & Cream really is the cream of the crop. And the Seared with Pickled Shiso Leaf is tangy, vinegary, and has a hint of bitterness. I usually split this dish, then end up ordering another because it's just so darn good.
2. SPICY TUNA ON CRISPY RICE: This is like FRENCH FRIES ON CRACK, and I've yet to meet another "DEALER" that makes it so well. The Crispy Rice tastes like a Japanese version of a hash brown that's crispy on the outside, soft on the inside, and flavored with Soy Sauce. The Spicy Tuna is fresh, creamy, and melts in your mouth, while the Jalapeno crunch at the end wakes it up.
3. CREAMY ROCK SHRIMP TEMPURA: While these are also served atop a Spicy Tuna Roll in the SSC Roll, I recommend getting it by the bowl, since it's already rich enough. The tangy Creamy Mayo Sauce that's slightly spicy is so good, you'll forget all about the calories you're consuming. The lightly Tempura Battered Shrimp are super soft and tender inside (see pictured). The only thing bad about this dish is waiting for these babies to cool down so you can pop 'em in your mouth.
4-5 plates is enough for 2 people to split. But before you decide to order other dishes, try these first, because I guarantee you'll be fighting over every last bite and end up ordering another round.
To wash it all down, I recommend a large bottle of Asahi ($6) and their House Sake ($9) – it's mellow and slightly sweet.
Also, don't miss their new Friday Night Specials from 5:30-7pm with $8-10 Artisan Craft Beers, 4 for $10 Wine Tastings, $10 Kobe Beef Burgers & Izakaya Tacos, and 3 items for $10, like Sashimi for three, Scallop Carpaccio & Japanese Ceviche.
I betcha can't go just once a month. Doo itashimashite ("You're Welcome" in Japanese.)
8420 W. 3rd St., Los Angeles, CA 90048. 323-782-9536.