December 26th, 2016

Food Trends: Izakayas

Posted in Food Trends, Gastro-Pub, Japanese, Trends

Izakayas: The Japanese Gastropub

Izakayas

Takoyaki – Kome

Don’t know what izakayas are? You’re about to.

Japanese cuisine provides us with a large variety of foods that continue to engage our imaginations and our palates. The prevalence of sushi and ramen has paved the way for more unfamiliar Japanese fare to make inroads into the American diet.

Such fare often comes by way of izakayas, the Japanese Gastropub. These diners focus on small plates served in a casual atmosphere, usually paired with sake or beer. A commonplace for an after work drink and a bite to eat in Japan, izakayas can be likened to an Irish pub. As Susan Malovany writes in the June edition of Culinology Magazine, izakayas are all about “small plates and portion control, healthy options, global foods, umami and variety.”

Over the last decade, izakayas have begun to flourish in the United States. As with most Asian food trends, they began showing up on the west coast and in New York, but have spread inward and can now be found in most major cities. Izakayas run the gamut from fine to casual dining and mirror the trend of taking simple comfort foods and elevating them to new heights with influences of different cultures. This can be seen in the utilization of continental ingredients such as beets and Brussels sprouts.

Austin Izakayas

Oyster – Otoko

You can find staples such as edamame and seaweed salad mixed in with less familiar dishes like takoyaki (octopus dumplings), uni, and chicken hearts. Varieties of sushi, sashimi, and noodle soups are also served at izakayas, offering options to even the pickiest of food adventurers. This variety displays the true beauty of the izakaya.

Izakaya Austin

Courtesy of Gallivant.com

Izakaya Den in Denver, for instance, is a local favorite and sister restaurant to Sushi Den. Fresh fish is flown in daily from Japan for sushi and specials, and their menu is diversified with a range of foods from steamed duck buns to roasted beet salad.

Chef Consultants

Jellyfish – Otoko

Austin also proves a great city for izakaya dining. Tyson Cole has given us the likes of Uchi, Uchiko, and Paul Qui gives us the more highbrow Otoko. Chef Kazu Fukumoto chose to go more casual with Fukumoto just east of downtown. Komé offers those on the north side of the city a fantastic menu of small plates along with a great ambiance.

There are plenty of great izakayas across the country, all worth a visit. From Blue Ribbon Sushi Izakaya in New York to Shizen Vegan Sushi Bar and Izakaya in San Francisco, there is always great food and innovation to experience. Whenever visiting a new city, I recommend looking at the local izakayas and always asking what the house special is and trying that, regardless of how strange it might seem. You never know where you might find your next favorite dish.

So, explore and eat my friends, and let us know what you find!

 

Cheers!

 

Izakayas to Try:

Izakaya Den
1487-A South Pearl St.
Denver, CO 80210
Website

Blue Ribbon Sushi Izakaya
187 Orchard Street
New York, NY 10002
Website

Shizen Vegan Sushi & Izakaya
370 14th St.
San Francisco, CA 94103
Website

Fukumoto
514 Medina St.
Austin, TX 78702
Website

Uchi / Uchiko
801 S. Lamar Blvd.
Austin, TX 78704
4200 N Lamar Blvd.
Austin, TX 78756
Uchi Website
Uchiko Website

Komé
4917 Airport Blvd.
Austin, TX 78751
Website

Update:

Since the initial writing of this blog Austin got news of a new izakaya concept from the co-owners and executive chefs of Ramen Tatsu-ya. Opening in what was the location of Live Oak BBQ, the new restaurant called Kemuri Tatsu-ya, will feature Texas inspired izakaya dishes intended to be shared.

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December 12th, 2016

Food Trends Series: Hawaiian Cuisine

Posted in Food Trends, Hawaii, New Foods and Flavors, Restaurants, Reviews, Trends

Hawaiian Food Trends

Hawaiian food trends

When you think of Hawaiian cuisine, images of roasted pork and, most importantly, Spam are likely what your brain conjures. Though these two staples are indeed important, they are not the end all be all of a culture rich in food tradition. Though more prominent on the West coast of the US, dishes and flavor profiles from Hawaiian cuisine are making their way across the mainland.

Poke, a dish that until recently was widely unknown throughout the continental United States, has seen a surge in popularity over the past year. A simple dish, traditionally made of white rice topped with diced raw tuna, green onions, chili, sesame, soy sauce and furikake, poke is a massive reason for the interest in Hawaiian flavors. Poke is simply part of living in Hawaii. Available in every grocery store and with entire restaurants dedicated to making it, poke is a staple. With poke eateries popping up heavily in both New York and Los Angeles, it is no surprise that we are seeing Hawaiian restaurants appear in major cities across the US.

Certified Research Chef

Liholiho Picture Courtesy of Eater San Francisco

Hawaiian and Hawaiian-inspired restaurants run the gamut from fast casual to fine dining. Concepts such as Pokeworks on the west coast utilize a similar setup as Chipotle, allowing customers to choose the toppings and sauces to accent their fresh fish. Higher end restaurants such as Liholiho Yacht Club in San Francisco take Hawaiian cuisine to a new level.

Like most major cities, Denver has seen a growth in Hawaiian restaurants in the past year. Though there has been a L&L BBQ (a Hawaiian based fast casual restaurant) located in Aurora since 2004, there has been little competition until recently. Most notably, the newly renovated Adrift Tiki Bar off Broadway St. and Ohana Island Kitchen in the Highlands.

Adrift Tiki Bar

Research chef Denver

Picture Courtesy of Westword

Adrift has taken on an enhanced menu of traditional island flavors blended with American fare whilst still producing delicious tiki drinks and bowls.

Kilauea Poke – Ahi, Albacore, Mango, Wakami, Taro Chips

Chef consultants Denver

A beautiful take on a simple dish, this poke is slightly sweet and spicy with a good depth of fresh fish flavor from the different tunas. The taro chips were very crunchy and a great addition to the tuna.

Green Papaya Salad – Jicama, Asian Pear, Peanuts, Lotus, Tamarind, Sriracha, Chicken

Chef consultants Colorado

A wonderfully balanced salad. Slightly acidic green papaya paired with sweet Asian pear and rounded out with spicy sriracha. This salad shows island flavors with the plenty of Asian flair.

Pupu Platter – Pele Wings (gochujang glazed), Guava BBQ Ribs, Onion Rings, Kalua Pork Sliders, Mofongo Chips, Edamame

Chef consultants Texas

A Hawaiian take on an Asian classic, this pupu platter allows you to try the majority of the menu offered at Adrift:

  • Pele wings are glazed with Adrift’s take on the now extremely popular gochujang sauce, slightly spicy and sweet with the addicting flavor of fermented chilies.
  • Kalua pork, no Hawaiian restaurant would be respected without it. The sliders were good but felt unnecessary, the pork could stand on its own without the addition of the bread and excess lettuce.
  • Guava BBQ ribs added another variety of pork to the platter; very tender with a fruity and sweet glaze.

Ohana Island Kitchen

Hawaiian food trends

Once literally a hole in a wall, but now a full restaurant across the street from their original location, Ohana keeps their menu wonderfully simple and true to Hawaii. With only 4-5 main menu items, Ohana is able to serve exemplary food at a reasonable cost.

Spam Musubi

Chef consultant services

Seared spam with a sweet soy glaze, wrapped in sushi rice and nori; probably the simplest Hawaiian dish and one of the most delicious. Though not seemingly exciting, especially for those adverse to the Spam name, Spam musubi is a must at Ohana.

Poke

Culinary consultants

 

THIS IS POKE! Large chunks of fresh tuna lightly seasoned with soy, sesame, and chilies is all you need. Ohana does poke as it should be and being in a land locked state, it’s not easy to make it this good.

Kalua Pork Bento

Product development

As much as I love pork, I will admit that kalua pork is not my favorite. If made incorrectly, it can come out lacking flavor and tasting steamed. Ohana does a fantastic job of avoiding this by seasoning well with a light sauce and scallions. Served with seasoned white rice and house made pickles, this pork is hard to pass up.

Final Thoughts

Both Adrift and Ohana are great places to dine, each with their own charm. If you are looking for a few classic tiki drinks and some delicious bites, Adrift is the place for you. However, for the best Hawaiian food in town the answer is Ohana.

Though just a few examples, Hawaiian food influence can be seen across the country and is only continuing to grow. Island flavors are making their way into different culinary segments every day. With coconut milk added into the cheese process in KoKos gouda and passionfruit in a sour wit beer with Lilikoi Kepolo by Avery brewing, the possibilities are plenty. 2016 was definitely the breakout year for Hawaiian food and flavors and I doubt we will see them disappear anytime soon. With consumers continually seeking out new experiences trends like Hawaiian are going to continue to flourish in the future.

 

-Patrick

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