Izakayas are popular gathering places for friends and coworkers to socialize and unwind after work or on weekends. The emphasis is on sharing dishes, so it’s common for groups of people to order a variety of items and enjoy them alongside their drinks. So now, let’s get to know more about some of the Izakaya food in Japan.
What is Izakaya food?
An Izakaya (居酒屋) is a type of informal Japanese gastropub or tavern where people gather to enjoy Izakaya food and drinks in a casual, relaxed atmosphere. The food served at izakayas is typically designed to complement the alcoholic beverages, such as sake, beer, and shochu, commonly consumed there. Izakaya cuisine is known for its wide variety of small, flavorful dishes meant for sharing, creating a social dining experience.
Izakaya food History
The concept of izakaya, a Japanese drinking and dining establishment, has deep historical roots dating back to the 8th century. Early records indicate that izakaya-like settings, often called “Shushi” at the time, were already popular. During the Nara period, a monetary economy emerged, and Buddhist temples and shrines began brewing sake. In the Heian and Muromachi periods, private companies known as “jozoya” brewed sake, initially catering to the wealthy aristocracy. By the Kamakura period, izakayas served sake to the samurai class and even engaged in prostitution. The Muromachi period saw the emergence of specialized serving establishments, known as “sakaya” and “chaya,” which separated brewing and serving.
Izakayas further evolved during the Edo period when liquor stores started offering simple side dishes, and this development continued into the Meiji era with the introduction of Western liquors. In modern times, izakayas have become more diverse, offering a wider range of drinks and food to appeal to various groups, including women and families. Chain izakaya restaurants have become prevalent, offering affordable and accommodating venues for gatherings such as simple banquets, attracting a broad range of customers, regardless of gender.
Standard Drinks Menu
According to a survey, the first thing most people order at an izakaya is beer. After all, it’s available at every izakaya, so it’s easy to just order beer anyway. Also, since most of the people around them order beer, it seems that there are many people who go ahead and order beer at first.
Drinks other than beer
Standard drinks other than beer include sours, shochu, highballs, and soft drinks. Of course, if you are coming by car, you will be asked to only order soft drinks from the beginning to avoid drinking and driving. In addition, even for people who are not very good at drinking, it seems that they often order soft drinks after ordering easy-to-drink alcohol such as sours, shochu, and highballs. In recent years, there are some people who don’t like the bitterness of beer, so sweet and easy-to-drink sours and chu-hi have become popular among these people.
Non-alcoholic drinks are also popular among people who cannot drink alcohol. There seem to be many stores that carry non-alcoholic beer. Additionally, women who are not good at drinking seem to support not only soft drinks but also non-alcoholic cocktails.
Standard Dishes Menu
The food menu at an izakaya can be divided into speed menus, appetizers, snacks, a la carte dishes, closing dishes, and desserts. We will introduce what can be said to be the standard menu for each.
A dish to toast with
What you want to have when toasting is something called a “speed menu” prepared quickly. If you bring a drink with you, you can snack on it while drinking. Edamame, Tsukemono, takowasa, kimchi, and plum crystals are popular staples.
Snacks after the second item
After ordering the speed menu, the next step is to get a proper snack. In addition to salted cabbage, appetizers (salads) such as Caesar salad are also popular. French fries and fried cartilage that everyone can enjoy are also standard menu items.
Dishes for when you want to eat a little hearty meal
Regardless of the type of alcohol, simmered dishes are recommended for serving after the second drink. Deep-fried foods are a must-have menu item for izakaya restaurants, as they are filling and go well with beer. Standard menu items that you can eat not only as snacks but also as dishes include fried chicken and yakitori. If you want to eat more heartily, yakisoba, fried rice, and pizza are also dishes that you can enjoy while drinking alcohol.
The standard closing dishes are soup-based carbohydrates such as ochazuke, ramen, and udon noodles. Desserts vary depending on the restaurant, but refreshing and easy-to-eat options such as ice cream and sorbet are most popular.
Tsukada Farm’s business model is “direct production and sales,” which cuts out intermediaries and deals directly with producers. You can enjoy carefully selected ingredients such as free-range chicken sent directly from our own poultry farms in Miyazaki, Kagoshima, and Hokkaido, and fresh vegetables grown by contracted farmers at reasonable prices.
Yoronotaki is a traditional general izakaya chain founded in 1938. They offer a variety of menus, from moderately sized a la carte dishes to banquet courses with all-you-can-drink options. The store has a homely atmosphere with counter seats, making it easy for a single person to come in.
Torikizoku’s menu costs a whopping 298 yen (327 yen including tax) including drinks! You can enjoy carefully selected yakitori (grilled chicken) made from domestically-produced chicken that is skewered in-house, as well as fried chicken, chicken kamameshi, and other dishes at reasonable prices.
Izakaya food FAQ
- Why is the standard menu of an izakaya called a standard?
This is because it is a menu that many Japanese want to order at an izakaya. In other words, the standard menu is a dish that everyone wants to eat when drinking alcohol, a dish that goes well with alcohol and used as a snack.
- Do izakayas have a time limit for how long you can stay and eat?
Izakayas in Japan typically do not have strict time limits for how long you can stay and eat. However, some izakayas offer all-you-can-drink or all-you-can-eat options with specific time limits. During busy times, you might be asked to leave if there’s a waiting list. Chain izakayas or those with unique policies may have their own rules. Larger groups may get more flexibility. It’s a good idea to ask the staff for details when you arrive, especially if you have specific requirements or preferences.
Izakaya food Recipe
Izakaya food Ingredients
|Ingredients of Izakaya food for 2 persons||Measurements|
|Nori (for rice balls)||15g|
|Salt and pepper||1g|
How to make Nagaimo seaweed wrapped?
Peel the nagaimo and cut into 1cm wide slices.
Add butter and garlic cloves to a frying pan and once the butter has melted, add the nagaimo and fry on both sides until golden brown.
While baking, cut the seaweed (for rice balls) in half. Combine soy sauce, sake, mirin, and sugar.
When the nagaimo is browned on both sides, add the seasonings and simmer until the sauce is reduced, then sprinkle with salt and pepper. Place the nagaimo steak on the seaweed and roll it up.
Where to buy Izakaya food?
Restaurant Todaka (食堂とだか)
This is an extremely popular izakaya featured on the popular TV Tokyo drama “Kodoku no Gourmet”. The 12,000 yen all-you-can-drink course is popular, and includes carefully selected dishes such as “Sea urchin on the boiled egg,” which is one of the signature dishes featured in “Kodoku no Gourmet.”
Takataro is also popular as the “restaurant that doesn’t take reservations” in Shibuya, a competitive area for izakaya restaurants. This is a famous restaurant based on authentic Japanese cuisine, where you can enjoy carefully selected dishes and sake to match. The food and drinks are so well-received that the owner, Takataro Hayashi, has even published a book introducing the snacks.
Uoshin Shibuya (魚真)
A restaurant that prides itself on its fresh fish, mainly in Tokyo. The counter seats are lined with fresh fish in showcases, and you can enjoy sashimi, salt-grilled fish, and nigiri sushi. A popular restaurant where you can eat delicious fish in Shibuya, the center of the city. Reservations are required as seats are limited.
Izakaya food in Japan offers a delightful culinary adventure that’s not only delicious but also a window into the country’s vibrant culture. The variety of dishes, from sizzling skewers of yakitori to delicate sashimi, paired with a wide array of drinks, make dining at an izakaya a memorable experience. The warm and welcoming atmosphere of these establishments encourages friends and strangers alike to share stories and laughter over plates of delectable food. So, when you find yourself in Japan, make sure to seek out an izakaya and immerse yourself in this wonderful tradition. It’s an opportunity to savor the tastes of Japan and create lasting memories with loved ones, and we hope you’ll be inspired to try it for yourself on your next journey to this captivating land.
You can check some Japanese dishes below that we know you would like to try too.