When I lived in Montreal, one of my favourite place to indulge in my sushi cravings was Isakaya, a cute little Japanese bistro located on Avenue du Parc, right on the outskirt of the McGill ghetto. I never thought twice about its name, but I’ve been hearing the word isakaya thrown around DC a lot lately…
I first investigated this isakaya business when writing about the upcoming opening of Kushi in my neighbourhood. Isakayas, it turns out, are more about drinks than food. They’re actually Japanese drinking establishments who happen to serve food too! Thus the word “izakaya”: “i” means to sit and “sakaya” means sake shop. Of course, the label “isakaya” gets thrown around a little losely at times. For example, the little sushi counter at the Whole Foods on P Street is called Isakaya despite the fact that it doesn’t serve sake or other alcoholic beverages. But two downtwon spots are bringing sake back!
The Source by Wolfpang Puck turned its downstairs lounge into a Japanese isakaya, defined here as a Japanese gastropub. The popular Kobe beef sliders and General Tso’s chicken wings now share the menu spotlight with sushi, dumplings, noodles and mini–bahn mi sandwiches, which can be washed down with shochu (distilled sake), sake (rice alcohol) and other fancy cocktails.
For a spot that aspire to be an isakaya and nothing else, we’ll have to be a little more patient. Kushi is coming to a neighbour near you! well, at least to a neighbourhood near me! Brightest Young Things describes the new restaurant as an inexpensive, neighbourhood type of establishment where you can “come in, have a drink, and build a little meal for yourself.” Since I live ridiculously close, I have a feeling I’ll be doing a lot of that… coming in… having a drink… Kushi will have huge sake casks, japanese macrobrews on tap as well as small-batch sakes and shochus. Kampai!!
Kushi’s ♫ bringing sake back… ♫ those other Isayaka don’t know how to act! ♪
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