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Izakaya Ten

Pia Mileaf-Patel

$50+ a person

I would like to start this off by saying that Izakaya Ten is one of my favorite restaurants. I have zero complaints. The small restaurant is nestled between two other buildings, and a Japanese paper lantern hangs out front. When you walk in, it is dim, and always full, with the sounds of people chatting on and on, drifting up the high ceilings. On the right is a row of coat hooks on the wall, and on the left is the bar. The wall behind it holds shelves of countless types of Japanese juices and liquor, in very pretty bottles. The restaurant is known for its bar which is open until dawn, and for its extensive collection of shochu and sake.

            The last time I went, it was after a concert that I was in, and my grandparents took my mom, dad, brother and me there. We had a reservation and were immediately seated, up two steps in the back room. Izakaya Ten is decorated in a tasteful, sophisticated way, with beautifully patterned cloth to dim the lights, and modern candles on every table. My younger brother and I immediately ordered our favorite drinks, a yuzu (a Japanese citrus fruit, which is sweet and sour and delicious) and sprite for him, and a virgin lychee martini for me. The yuzu cocktail is very refreshing, and the lychee one is sweet and flavorful. The adults poured over the sake menu and were helped by the expert (I really can’t figure out what the proper name for that is…) to pick one out of the many they offer. Sake is a Japanese alcohol that is like wine made out of rice. You drink certain ones hot and others cold, and some are sweet, while others are less so.

            Because we eat here, probably too much (although I could never, ever get tired of the food here), we knew what to order, and as usual, decided to try something new in addition. This seems to be how we find our favorite dishes. The menu has a lot of small dishes, and different assortments of sushi, as well as the standard sushi, sashimi and rolls menu. My dad likes to compare the menu to “the sushi version of tapas,” which are little dishes of Spanish food. The point of tapas is to order a lot of different kinds, and share them all together. Izakaya Ten is actually located right next to Tia Pol, a tapas tapas restaurant, but I’ll write about that another time…

            Our first usual order was the Agedashi Tofu, a fried tofu in a little bit of clear broth and dusted with nori (the dark green, crunchy seaweed used to wrap sushi). The sweetness of the sauce and saltiness of the fried batter is perfect with the fresh, buttery tofu. The dish is simple and delicious and one of my favorite things. My brother, a notoriously picky eater (once he tried to order avocado maki and had so many specific requests about it that when it came to the table, it was a plate of avocado sushi, without rice), ordered his standard pork gyoza dumplings, and avocado maki (it is made here to match his weirdo taste buds. If he likes it, then it must be pretty delicious. He also wants me to let you know that Izakaya Ten is his “favorite place”). The dumplings are lightly pan fried without being too greasy, and the pork filling is tender. They taste fantastic in the dipping sauce! A secret thing I can’t go without ordering is a bowl of sushi rice, as opposed to white rice. It’s a little bit more flavorful than plain white rice because it has a tiny bit of vinegar to hold it together, yet it doesn’t taste vinegar-y, just yummy-y.

            We also ordered some tempura, an assortment of shrimp and vegetables. My favorite part of this is the shiso leaf tempura. Shiso leaf is a Japanese herb used in a lot of cooking and garnishing. It’s also popular in cocktails (mixed with cucumber for an exotic, refreshing drink). The tempura batter dims the distinct flavor, so that it’s still there, but not as powerful. I hope you have a chance to try this! It’s one of my favorite things on the menu, although almost everything on this menu is my favorite J. Also, as a lighter dish, they have a spicy cucumber salad, which is very refreshing and palate cleansing, while still having a burst of flavor. Another appetizer, our “new order of the night,” was the Mori Set of Yakitori, which are skewers of different grilled meats and vegetables. The Mori Set includes a short rib skewer, a shisito pepper skewer, a chicken meatball skewer, and a chicken thigh skewer. They are packed with flavors, and cooked tenderly. This dish is also a really, really good sharing dish, which doesn’t require a lot of cutting or pouring to split it up and would be a great choice if you go there with friends.

            I could just gush about this restaurant for days! There are so many dishes on the menu and I bet they’re all phenomenal. It’s become my goal to try them all! Next, we had some sushi. You can order it by the piece, or roll, or you can get a set assortment of sushi, such as the Sushi Ten, which we always have. It’s one piece of tuna, one piece of toro, one piece of yellowtail, one of salmon, one of fluke, one shrimp, one Spanish mackrel, and one ikura (salmon roe, the big orange caviar). Izakaya ten has their fish flown in from Japan, and it is always fresh, light and sliced perfectly, based on the kind of fish it is. The pieces of sushi are small (-er than in an American-Japanese restaurant [i.e. Sushi Samba]) like they were everywhere in Japan when I was there. This is real foodie sushi, of excellent quality.

            The one ikura sushi is definitely never enough. My mom ended up ordering extra so that everybody could have their own. The ikura here is unbelievable. It’s fresh and salty like the ocean, but not fishy or remotely old. The nori that holds it together with the rice is still crunchy and I could just sit there with a hundred pieces of this and eat them all, savoring each and every one.

            Finally, after the sushi, we ordered a few plates of the Yaki Udon, a thick noodle stir fried with pork belly, vegetables and bonito flakes. It’s fantastic! The noodles are cooked with just the right amount of chewy-ness, and the sauce is tangy and salty and sweet at the same time. The bonito flakes seem weird, but somehow compliment the noodle dish. I can’t imagine going to Izakaya Ten and not getting these.

            For dessert, my brother and I had mochi ice cream, balls of ice cream, wrapped in a chewy, sweet, rice gummy (that’s a weird work to describe it, but I can’t think of a better one). I hope that you have a chance to go to Izakaya Ten. It’s one of my favorites, and it’s just so good!