was fortunate enough to be invited to the soft opening of
Houston’s latest Japanese restaurant – Izakaya-wa.
Located at the intersection of Memorial Dr. and Boheme
St. (near the Town and Country Shopping District/I-10 and
Beltway 8), this new Japanese spot isn’t the typical experience.
Asano, former general manager of Kubo’s Sushi Bar and Grill
broke away from managing a restaurant to owning one.
After years of planning, he now works alongside his
partner of the past - Master Chef Hajime Kubokawa.
those who aren’t familiar with an Izakaya, it’s a Japanese
drinking establishment which also serves food to accompany the
drinks; casual places for after-work drinking.
Izakaya-wa refers to a version of ‘Japanese Tapas’ with a
side of sushi.
Offering a wine and beer bar (including sake), this
straightforward setting will offer a laidback approach to
dining. Happy hours
are not offered.
entire restaurant is easy to understand - nothing complicated
here. Here’s how it
enter Izakaya-wa and order drinks of their choice.
Then, carefully constructed tapas-oriented dinners are
certainly have your choices,
and the restaurant is even equipped with a 5-seat sushi bar…but
the emphasis is eating small portions, having your share of
corresponding drinks and good conversation.
You can order directly from the menu or select the
recommended selection of structure tapas courses.
first heard about this restaurant, I was under an entirely
I imagined a small restaurant with a Japanese-themed
décor serving traditional meals while a hint of koto music
played in the background.
I visualized a handful of Japanese waitresses, wearing
light kimonos shuffling around the dining area.
Izakaya-wa isn’t Kyoto.
Izakaya-wa is Osaka.
The waitresses at Izakaya-wa wear a garment named Samue at Izakaya-wa
which is very common in most Izakayas in Japan. And
Izaakaya-wa is all about food, chatting with friends and great drinks.
And that makes sense…while Akira Asano was born and raised in
Kyoto, he grew up near Osaka, so this style is as natural to him as
I arrived, Akira welcomed me at the front door and gave me an
unprecedented tour of the entire restaurant.
Every nook and cranny.
The ambiance of Izakaya-wa is humble, simple.
From the subdued-yellow stucco walls (lined with a deep
brown trim) to the Japanese Batman (yes, Japanese Batman)
posters tacked to the wall, you can forget about wearing a
necktie. If you’re
hungry for Japanese cuisine, wish to sample a wide variety of
tiny portions and want to wet your whistle for a few hours,
you’ve found your spot.
honored to be one of the first invited to view and evaluate the
menu at Izakaya-wa.
While I enjoyed a myriad of delicious menu offerings, I was
happy to see the upper echelon of Houston’s Japanese community
enjoying a meal with their friends and co-workers, laughing and
toasting beers for a few hours.
I knew that they could go anywhere to enjoy a great meal
and everyone seemed like they were blending into the atmosphere,
as if they were back home.
Izakaya-wa’s location is a good one.
It’s less than 3 miles away from a handful of Japanese
corporations and a Japanese business association.
Something tells me that this restaurant could become a
steady hangout for those who miss their homeland.
Throughout the dinner, Asano worked with his wait staff,
scurrying around the dining area and chatting with everyone who
walked in the door.
He seemed busy, almost swamped...but very happy.
When you have a few hours to sit back and fill your stomach,
visit Izakaya-wa for dinner and allow them to call the shots.
Give them the chance to satisfy your cravings with a
handful of dinner items that offer a glimpse of Japan right off
of the Beltway.
The parking lot
itself provides more than enough room for every customer while
the outdoor patio is ideal for a private party on the weekend.
Izakaya-wa will be
officially open to the public for dinner only on Wednesday, October 16th.
At this time, they are continuing
to develop new ideas and concepts.
For more information
about Izakaya-wa, please contact the owner, Akira Asano by
visting their restaurant for more details on their menu or hours