Castle Street, Liverpool
Review by Natasha Young
With a surge of Asian eateries joining Liverpool’s booming food and drink scene, from fusion bowl food to pho and katsu curries, one addition which certainly shouldn’t be overlooked is Izakaya.
Situated on Castle Street, a growing hotspot for foodies, this snug restaurant fuses Japanese authenticity with the original twist we’ve come to expect from vibrant independent eateries around the city.
My dinner date and I visited during a busy Friday evening and squeezed past the central bar to bag a corner table by the open kitchen. The decor was simple, cool and contemporary whilst also nodding to Japanese tradition, and the atmosphere was welcoming and relaxed.
The menu, however, seemed vast and overwhelming in the best possible way. As a fan of typically clean but flavoursome Japanese cuisine, I for one wanted to try everything!
Starting with drinks I was immediately drawn to the cocktails and intrigued by how even they incorporated a flavour of Japan.
I settled on the Sake Spice (£7) which, of course, combined sake with ginger syrup, maraschino, dry orange curacao and cardamom. Presented in a chilled glass with a pretty floating flower, it provided a refreshing taste of summer with the sake sweetened by its accompanying ingredients.
My partner opted for an imported Japanese ale on the specials board called Hitachino Nest, which was stronger than expected but delicious nonetheless and had been brewed with ancient red rice.
We munched on a bowl of edamame beans in moldon sea salt (£2) as we decided on the food.
Having been advised that many options from the broad sushi selection could be treated as small plates, I took a tapas style approach to my main by mixing and matching meat, fish and vegetable dishes.
From the nigiri section, where dishes are each served in portions of two pieces, I picked the Spicy Maguro Gunkan (£2.60) – tuna with hot sauce and chives.
Another of my sushi choices was a small serving of the vegetarian crispy squash uramaki (£5.75), combining tempura squash with kanpyo, takuan and cucumber.
A steamed bao with pork belly, crispy shallots and spicy mayonnaise (£6) completed my feast.
My partner opted for a more straightforward starter and main set-up. He began with a trio of nigiri options including the Hamachi – amberjack and wasabi (£3.60); Suzuki – seabass, miso and wasabi (£3.20) and the Kombujime – sea bream, sake and wasabi (£3.10). His main was a bowl of tonkotsu pork ramen with rolled pork belly, noodles, greens and soft soy egg (£9.50).
Presentation was consistently beautiful, and our sushi picks were served together on an impressive plate garnished with flowers and leaf-shaped dashes of green wasabi.
My steamed bao was well packed and tasted delicious with the spicy mayonnaise providing a kick.
Meanwhile the crispy squash worked well alongside Japanese flavours and the tuna nigiri, although slightly intimidating to look at, was a towering parcel of fiery flavour.
My date’s ramen bowl oozed freshness with its vegetable ingredients and came with a tasty level of heat.
We agreed that Izakaya’s sushi was authentically sized and the quality of the fish was great value for the price.
My partner washed down the meal with an espresso (£2) but I couldn’t resist a dessert of Banana Katsu – a crispy banana with salted caramel sauce and coconut ice cream (£4.50).
The crispy banana was surprisingly light, and the refreshing ice cream truly brought the triumphant dish to life.
We were certainly won over by Izakaya. It may be compact as a restaurant, but its extensive menu is brimming with quality, creativity and Japanese authenticity and is a must for fans of Asian food.