Izayaka Daikoku brings casual Japanese, small plate dining to Midtown

Buta, the Japanese-style pancake with pork, at Izayaka Daikoku.

Two izayaka-style spots recently opened up in the Sacramento area, making regular Japanese food cravings a whole lot more interesting.

The izayaka, for the uninitiated, is a beautiful, beautiful thing. If you’re anything like me, you want to try the a restaurant’s entire menu in one sitting—just a few bites here and a few bites there. Consider the izayaka the Spanish tapas bar of Japan. It’s casual, social and built around small plates for grazing with booze.

In downtown Davis, Yakitori Yuchan opened up a few weeks ago and the Sacramento Bee’s Chris Macias gave it a strong initial review. The restaurant’s crowning achievement is its checklist-style menu of yakitori—those tasty skewered, grilled meats. But it also offers ramen, soba and a variety of small plates. 

Closer to home, Izayaka Daikoku opened up last week at the former Sweetwater Restaurant & Bar on 19th and S streets. It comes from the same owners as neighboring Ryu Jin Ramen House.

It’s a pretty modern, sleek space, staffed with friendly and speedy Japanese servers. There’s a massive communal table and a bar stacked with sake.

The menu is huge, meriting many friends and many visits. There’s a small sushi section, soba noodle—that’s buckwheat, served hot or cold—dishes and a ton of small plates and grilled meats.

The grilled yellowtail collar was by far my favorite part of the evening, and I can’t express how excited I am to have a Midtown restaurant serving fish collars in general. That’s the section behind the head and gills, and I also can’t tell you scientifically why it’s so wonderful. But it’s tender, juicy, sweet and rich, requiring nothing beyond a brief squirt of lemon.

This is yellowtail, but salmon collar is also available.

A selection of Okonomiyaki is on the menu too—decadent Japanese-style pancakes, loaded with meat or fish and topped with salty bonito flakes, a sweet sauce, mayo and pickled ginger. 

Yakitori disappointed. At less than $2 a skewer, it was hard to be too annoyed, but the chicken gizzards and beef tongue were dry and tough. That said, it’s been one week. I will certainly be back to try some raw squid, little rice cakes and fried tofu. And devour more fish collars.

Sad little chicken heart.

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