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.