Little Tokyo, 2nd and Central Ave. An izakaya Mexican standoff. At both places, sizzling skewers, steaming bowls of noodles, and tall glasses of cold beer fly around like pinballs. You gotta love it.
Long time Haru-Ulala Heads, mrs rabo and I, based on advice culled here, venture to Izakaya Izayoi (while Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers...)
IZAYOI has a little more swagger. A normal enough looking place up to eye level, but from there on up, it looks as if someone ripped off the ceiling and replaced it with R-23. Service is crisp and efficient, versus the inevitable bumpy ride at Haru-Ulala. Also, Izayoi's sashimi variety is superior.
The menus at both are huge---divided into grilled, broiled, raw and deep-fried small plates, as well as a multitude of rotating daily specials. At least a beer-plus-a-shot-of-sake's-worth of time should be spent considering one's options.
"Ankimo"---Little buttery disks of smooth, liver-kissed heaven
"Eihire"---or "Dried Stingray Fin". Little fin-shaped chunks of mild fish jerky with two dipping sauces. Damned addictive and delicious. You should be done with your second beer by now.
One of the weakest parts of our Izayoi experience is the kitchen's timing. After our two opening plates, it suddenly starts to rain food. To make room on our tiny two-top, mrs rabo and I have to play Chinese Checkers with our plates and bowls. A real buzzkill.
"Iwashi Mentai"---"Broiled Sardine with Spicy Cod Roe". Always a winner
"Ginadara"---"Miso marinated Black Cod". Truly ubiquitous menu item, but previously rec'd by tokoyastrogirl. Delish.
"Seafood Cream Croquette"---Not real wild about these, but mrs rabo wants to try 'em. As they say in Texas, El Paso.
"Buta Kakuni"---"Marinated Pig Belly". A tough call, but gotta go with Haru-Ulala on this one. Izayoi's is served wetter, which detracts, but the gooey balls of mochi are a welcome inclusion.
"Ika Tempura"---OK, nothing special. Especially compared to the deep-frying wizardry on display at H-U
"Boston Amaebi" Sushi---Outstanding, incredibly sweet and melty. The heads make no subsequent appearance.
"Uni"---Unexpectedly, rather tired looking/tasting.
We were toying around with the idea of ordering some sea squirt sashimi, but veni, vidi, got wimpy.
The above grub + 2 tall Asahi's + 1 $18 bottle of sake = $101 before tip. Definitely the pricier of the two izakaya.
So far, it's a toss up. More Izayoi trips are obviously warranted (and will be gladly undertaken), especially for that "eihire", but my Haru-Ulala allegiance remains somewhat steadfast.
132 S Central Ave
Los Angeles, 90012