This past weekend I went to Izakaya here in Houston. Izakaya is the Japanese word for small dishes or tapas. Basically it is there for you to try and enjoy many different types of dishes to snack on and have a few drinks while having a fun time with your friends and family. I was so excited to try this new izakaya place as this is the second one to open in Houston, the first one being Izakaya Wa.
We strolled in late afternoon around 5 on a Sunday the place had very few tables full which is to be expected. The outside had some nice art design and a large sign with the namesake of the restaurant in nice artsy font. When you walk in you do truly feel like you were transported to a place in japan. There was a large use of wood and concrete. The only way you can tell that this place really wasn’t in Japan was the sheer size of it. In a regular Japanese restaurant you are looking at seating 50 people, but this place looked to sit over 150 people. The sushi bar was decorated with tiny toys that someone was collecting. The bar however was their main attraction. A full 10 foot high wall of many different liquors and sakes. They have a ton of Japanese and Taiwanese whiskeys and sakes, I was very impressed.
We were sat at the table without any problem. We opened up the menu and the prices were quite high. Compared to an izakaya I just went to in Vancouver the prices here were even higher (I will reference more to this later). We looked through the menu and finally decided on a few dishes, their Tonkasu Ramen, Strawberry Scallop Carpaccio, Tuna Poke bowl, and Krakage Fried Baby Octopus.
First the Strawberry Scallop Carpaccio ($12), this was the worst, I think of all the dishes, it was literally one raw scallop cut into many tiny pieces with one strawberry cut into multiple pieces served on a dish with yuzu/orange juice. Ok for the price it is really high for one scallop, however, that isn’t my main gripe about this dish. This scallop was straight up not fresh. This scallop when eaten had the most fishy taste ever. This is something I expect from a buffet not a $12 one scallop plate. Not even the yuzu or the orange juice could cut the smell of this scallop. Yes I have eaten scallops raw, fresh and frozen, the only time it has tasted like that is when it was not fresh.
Next was the Tuna Poke Bowl ($15), this was just a notch under that last one in terms of badness. The description said it had mushrooms, I didn’t see any mushrooms in my bowl at all. Then they puffed some cheap $0.05 shrimp crackers for you on the side. The most egregious mistake was the tuna. It was fresh this time, however, there was still sinew or tendon on the tuna still. There can only be 2 outcomes of this either the person who is filleting the whole fish doesn’t know what he/she is doing or that it was pre-bought chunks of tuna (a very low quality one at that).
The Krakage Fried Baby Octopus ($12) was ok, I don’t really have much say either way for this dish. It didn’t wow me. It was ok. The Octopus was fresh there was that. The sauce I think has some fancy names but it really was just spicy mayo.
The last thing that we got there was the Tonkasu Ramen ($12). I know I know, I shouldn’t haven’t gotten ramen at a non ramen place. Then you shouldn’t have it on the menu if it isn’t going to be good. The ramen base tasted very artificial, didn’t taste like they spent 12 hours boiling bones and meat to get this flavor. Most likely it was just ramen seasoning. The meat although tender was more fat than meat on one piece, which really isn’t the problem, but the major problem was the thing was like 6 inches long. It was like a cut of fresh bacon just plopped on top of the bowl of ramen. With no utensils other than my chopstick, I really didn’t understand the logistics of eating this char siu.
All in all I would not recommend going to this restaurant. The price is too high for the quality of food there. Service is good no complaint about that.
The address of the restaurant is 318 Gray St Houston, TX 77002
Phone number: 713 527 8988
Their website is: Houston Izakaya