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Some initial thoughts on Izayoi....

jaydee | Jul 5, 200505:32 PM

This is a bit long….my apologies…..

I recently took the week off and I was able to make it downtown to Izayoi for lunch. I was also fortunate enough to score an invite to a private party they held this weekend for old Sushi Ryo customers, to show off some of the items they will be serving on the menu. The following are some thoughts on the new place and the items they are offering….

For those of you who are unfamiliar with Izayoi, it is the "rebirth" of Sushi Ryo - manned by the Owner/Manager team of Junichi and Yuki. The restaurant has moved into new digs in Little Tokyo, leaving the adult book store and the eye sore of a donut shop behind, along with the old moniker of "Sushi Ryo." According to the Yuki, "Izayoi" means the 16th day of the Lunar new year, but apparently it was chosen as the name of their new place because it sounded cool (EEEZ-AAH-YOY).

Located next to the Starbucks and Green Bamboo bar/Chinese food joint, Izayoi is a larger restaurant than Sushi Ryo previously was. Comprised of two stories, the vast kitchen on the ground level is exposed and there is a dramatic wooden bar (very lustrous finish and light colored wood) that holds approximately 8 seats. The tables are of a darker wood finish and the ceiling has that industrial/exposed air conditioning look to it. I like how this place looks. Sushi Ryo fans may be pleased to know that Jun continues to play jazz and Bob Marley, although it is harder to hear it over the drone of the AC units.

The menu is larger than before, with an emphasis on sushi and cooked/Izakaya items. There is a need for more Izakaya places in my opinion in downtown LA, so I was pretty psyched upon hearing that Izayoi was looking to add to the Izakaya offerings already in place downtown (e.g. – Haru Ulala).

Unable to contain myself and wait until the tasting party, I popped into Izayoi for lunch during the week. The lunch menu is pretty straight forward. Old fans of the Sushi Ryo lunch special will see remnants of it on the Izayoi menu. I noticed a few items of interest, including a Chirashi Sushi bowl and various bento boxes (cold Soba as well). I chose the Izayoi lunchbox, which according to the menu – is only limited to the first 20 customers for lunch. I went ahead and ordered it, and was immediately served a mixed green salad that was heavy on the red onions and was dressed with a miso-based vinaigrette. Similar to other green salads I have had in Japanese restaurants, the dressing was a bit overpowering. The miso soup was run-of-the-mill, and I had a feeling this was all a precursor to the bento/lunch box that I was about to receive. Shortly after finishing my salad/soup, I was provided with the bento box which contained the following:

• 1 Bowl of rice
• Black seaweed with bits of fried tofu (hijiki) – light and tangy, and nice texture from the seaweed.
• Mixed sashimi – salmon, hamachi, maguro, tako. Great quality fish as expected from Jun. Not much to say here other than there is no noticeable drop in quality for the fish (not to say that was expected though).
• Mixed pickled vegetables
• Mixed tempura – 1 pc each of whitefish, shrimp, shishito pepper, taro root. Pretty decent, I enjoyed the whitefish the most – very delicate. Not too greasy – but I am not a tempura expert.
• Broiled fish – I asked Yuki what kind of fish this was, and she mentioned that it was like a Japanese whitefish or something like that. However, I cannot recall the name – but I did recall that it was delicious. It was a half of the fish, complete with tail and the meet was pretty thin/close to the bone. I took my chopsticks and just flaked off the meat on both sides and ate. The broiled skin was crunchy and the meat of the fish delicate and not dry in the slightest. Very good.
• Chawanmushi – steamed egg custard. This was the first time I had such a meal – it was like a poached egg/flan type of creation. I love eggs, so I appreciated the subtle egg flavor in this dish. At the bottom of the custard cup, there was a piece of pork and some pieces of mushroom that helped to further flavor the custard. A really cool dish in my opinion – like a Japanese Yoplait or something like that.

Overall, I thought the meal was a great bargain for $9.50. Cheaper than the sushi lunch special at Sushi Ryo, and in some ways more fulfilling.

At the tasting party, I ran into some old regulars from the Sushi Ryo days – and we all took in an ENORMOUS spread of food that Jun provided us. Sushi items and sashimi items again – VERY good. Cooked items to note:

- Crouqettes – cheese and crab filled, these things are pretty rich.
- Mixed tonkatsu skewers – pork and cucumbers coated in panko flakes and deep fried. The pork was a bit dry at parts, but a dip in the tonkatsu sauce (homemade supposedly) made up for it.
- Simmered pork belly – similar in look to Thit Kho or Pork Adobo – this dish had a deep flavor from the fatty pork, which was intensified even further with the sauce it had been simmering in. Very rich.

Izayoi is opening amidst some stiff competition, with long-time city faves Sushi Gen across the street, and other established spots around that area (e.g. R-23, Hamakawa). I really want this place to do well, and I suspect it will take a few weeks for them to pinpoint hits and misses on the menu and really find their identity. I think on sushi alone, this place will compete well. On Izakaya dishes, I have not tried enough items to really draw a conclusion – as I REALLY liked Haru Ulala. I think Management is banking on the possibility that they will draw customers who are interested in a variety of items (the egg custard for example) in addition to sushi that they may or may not be able to get elsewhere. In either case, the landscape in Little Tokyo has gotten interesting with the opening of this new joint. They recently received their liquor license and will be open for dinner starting Wednesday – July 6th.

IZAYOI, Izakaya Restaurant
132 S Central Ave, Los Angeles CA 90012
(Between 1st & 2nd. Office Depot parking is available for our customers)

Lunch Hours: 11:30- 14:00 ( Mon - Fri )
Diner Hours: 17:30 - 22:30 ( Mon - Sat )
Closed Sunday

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