Izakaya Food (and Beer) in Alhambra.
I don’t know why there are not more Izakayas in America.
Seriously. You’d think that the concept would have caught fire by now. Little tasty treats, Japanese Tapas if you need to go there, served with Happy Hour priced beer. What’s not to love?
Well, fine. Do what you want to America. More for me, I guess.
And more for the patrons at Izakaya Akatora, a neighborhood Izakaya in Alhambra.
I’ve driven past Honey Badger and Lunasia, and there I saw the sign just beckoning me, begging me to try it out. Say no more.
Walking inside, and it’s dark. Real dark. Romantic dark. Izakaya Akatora is out to set a mood. The lights are low, and they give the space a warmth, a coziness.
More on that in a second.
If your mood isn’t quite that, there are a few seats outside. It was more than a little hot outside to have lunch, so inside I remained.
It’s a comfortable space, all things considered. And there are a lot of tables, and the day I walked in, a lot of them were filled. There is also a Sushi Bar with a lot of seats.
Maybe this will be the place I will find myself relaxing in the future. Maybe this is the Izakaya I will call home. All people need one I think. A place where a Salaryman can relax after a hard day’s work. A place where you can have a Sapporo or a Kirin, and maybe some Spicy Tuna on Crispy Rice.
Got the place. Now, all I need to do is become a Salaryman.
WHAT SHOULD I GET?: There were a lot of Lunch Specials available, even a Bento Box Lunch Special. But I saw the words Izakaya, and I was in the mood for Izakaya anyway, so…
The first thing that landed my way was the Sautéed Green Beans, sautéed in a nice garlic soy.
In one respect, what can you say. These are freaking green beans. Izakaya Akatora isn’t starting a gastronomic revolution here or anything. They’re just serving up some good Sautéed Green Beans, one’s I’d gladly have again.
The one thing they did do differently, is serve them with a wedge of lemon. That I personally haven’t seen before. Squeezing a little lemon juice brought out another taste dimension to a dish I like anyway.
The next thing to arrive was the Edamame. Now, you’ve had Edamame before. Noting to surprising here, and I was going to order it anyway. But when I was there, they were having a special. Check in at the restaurant via Yelp and the Edamame is free.
Well, I am a Food Blogger on a budget, after all.
Then came the Chicken Karaage. Now, of course, this is a dish I’ve had tow days in a row. The Fried part of this Chicken dish was done excellently. It landed as pretty substantial hunks of chicken, something that would take two, three or four bites to finish off. It came fresh out of the oven, piping hot. This version was served with truffle grated daikon ponzu sauce, which was very nice, but a little hard to dip into and get clinging onto the chicken. Because that was a pretty good sauce.
After all that, I was still hungry, but with not so much room left, I went with the Agedashi Tofu. Like the Agedashi Tofu’s I’ve have in the last couple of weeks, it came topped with Bonito shavings that seem to writhe and live in breezes we cannot feel. It sits as one large chunk in a dashi soy bath, waiting for my chopsticks and fork to peel it apart.
It’s a tricky thing working without a knife, but the good thing about it is when you split the Tofu apart, as you separate the crunchy-chewy skin from the rest, you create a bit of Tofu soup in the Dashi. There your spoon comes into a play, all to be welcomed on your tongue.
IMPORTANT SAFETY TIP, PEOPLE: Nothing too out of the ordinary for this place. Bear in mind the Restaurant closes for three hours in between Lunch and Dinner. When ti does open again, the real deals happen around Happy Hour, from 5:00-6:30pm. If you get out a work at 6:00, you better hurry over.
There’s also another location in Manhattan Beach.
PARKING: Izakaya Akatora sits in the middle of a community of restaurants along E. Main Street. It doesn’t seem to have any kind of parking supporting it directly. No Valet. No lot out back.
What I did find was a free City lot about a half block behind the restaurant on North First Street is a City Garage. Totally free. No gates, no guards, nothing to worry about. Just circle up to the top floors, and grab a space.
115 W. Main St.
Alhambra, CA 91801
Tel: (626) 943-7872
Monday-Wednesday: 11:30 am – 2:00 pm, 5:00 – 10:00 pm
Thursday: 11:30 am – 2:00 pm, 5:00 – 10:30 pm
Friday: 11:30 am – 2:00 pm, 5:00 pm – 1:30 am
Saturday: 5:00 pm – 1:30 am
Sunday: 5:00 – 10:00 pm