Foodie News

New Japanese tapas restaurant looks to shake up Houston's noodle obsession

New Japanese tapas restaurant to shake up Houston's noodle obsession

Izakaya-Wa Houston Japanese restaurant in Memorial area October 2013 exterior at night
Izakaya-Wa opens Wednesday on Memorial Drive near the Sam Houston Tollroad Photo by Carl Rosa
Izakaya-Wa Houston Japanese restaurant in Memorial area October 2013 Chef Hajime Kubokawa, left, with owner Akira Asano
Celebrated sushi chef Hajime Kubokawa, left, with owner Akira Asano Photo by Carl Rosa
Izakaya-Wa Houston Japanese restaurant in Memorial area October 2013 sushi bar
Izakaya-Wa has a five-seat sushi counter, but the restaurant won't focus on sushi. Photo by Carl Rosa
Izakaya-Wa Houston Japanese restaurant in Memorial area October 2013 food
But Kubo-san still prepares an excellent plate of sliced fish. Photo by Carl Rosa
Izakaya-Wa Houston Japanese restaurant in Memorial area October 2013 open kitchen
The kitchen is ready to turn out a variety of dishes. Photo by Carl Rosa
Izakaya-Wa Houston Japanese restaurant in Memorial area October 2013 Superman poster
The decor is fairly eclectic.  Photo by Carl Rosa
Izakaya-Wa Houston Japanese restaurant in Memorial area October 2013 interior
But overall the appearance is understated.  Photo by Carl Rosa
Izakaya-Wa Houston Japanese restaurant in Memorial area October 2013 exterior at night
Izakaya-Wa Houston Japanese restaurant in Memorial area October 2013 Chef Hajime Kubokawa, left, with owner Akira Asano
Izakaya-Wa Houston Japanese restaurant in Memorial area October 2013 sushi bar
Izakaya-Wa Houston Japanese restaurant in Memorial area October 2013 food
Izakaya-Wa Houston Japanese restaurant in Memorial area October 2013 open kitchen
Izakaya-Wa Houston Japanese restaurant in Memorial area October 2013 Superman poster
Izakaya-Wa Houston Japanese restaurant in Memorial area October 2013 interior

Even as Houston's dining scene turns its attention towards various upcoming ramen restaurants, another Japanese restaurant is set to open this week with the goal of exposing Houston diners to another, underrepresented aspect of Japanese dining. Called Izakaya-Wa, the restaurant is named after the style of cuisine it will serve.

Think of izakaya as a Japanese version of tapas in which patrons share small plates while they drink wine, beer or sake.

Sushi Club of Houston president Carl Rosa tells CultureMap that the concept is fairly simply.

"The entire idea is to sit down with a group of friends/co-workers, enjoy a round of drinks and continue to get small portions of kitchen food," he emails. Those dishes may or may not include sushi. During an eight-course tasting, Rosa enjoyed a variety of both sushi and prepared items. 

While the concept might be new to the city — the closest current comparison is probably downtown bar/restaurant Goro & Gun — the people behind Izakaya-Wa are familiar to serious sushi fans. Akira Asano is the long-time general manager of Rice Village sushi spot Kubo's, but he left that venerable restaurant and struck out on his own at this new spot on Memorial and the Sam Houston Tollway.

Perhaps more importantly, he has lured celebrated sushi chef Hajime Kubokawa, the chef Kubo's is named for, to join him. Kubo-san's presence means that, while the restaurant won't focus on sushi, it will be available and well-prepared.

Although the restaurant's structure, decor and concept seem designed to lure Japanese ex-pats looking for a taste of home, anyone with adventurous palate might enjoy Izakaya-Wa.