Translated by Lester Somera
Izakaya Guide: Menus, Prices And More At Japan's Best Drinking Spots
Written by ニコ
Izakayas (Japanese bars) serve drinks and food in a relaxed atmosphere, with home-style dishes and various snacks that go great with alcohol. This article introduces typical izakaya menus, prices, and other recommendations related to izakaya!
Izakayas have fresh vegetable salads, potato salads and salads featuring root vegetables like radish and burdock.
Seasonal vegetables are dressed with tofu, sesame, miso and other ingredients. Varieties include white, sesame, and nuta (vinegared miso that gives the dish a sweet-and-sour flavor).
Raw octopus is cut into bite-size pieces and marinated in wasabi and dashi broth. The dish stands out for the firm texture of raw octopus, which is a perfect pairing with wasabi.
This snack is made from finely chopped shark or chicken cartilage, dressed with shredded dried plums and dashi broth.
Ei-Hire (Ray Fillet)
This snack is made by drying the flesh of a ray. The umami flavor seeps out with every bite, and it’s a typical side dish served with alcohol.
This grilled dish is made from dried Atka mackerel. It has a strong umami flavor and rich fattiness, so it goes well with Japanese sake.
This grilled dish is made from dried smelt. It’s cheap, delicious and a friend to working people everywhere.
This dried snack is made by slicing a squid in half, rolling it out flat, and drying it in the sun. While it’s quite tough, its chewiness and uniquely deep flavor can be habit-forming.
Yakitori consists of pieces of charcoal-grilled chicken on a skewer. Izakayas serve thigh meat, liver, and many other parts of the chicken. There is also a rich variety of food on skewers not made with chicken, including vegetables, pork and beef. For more information, check out our yakitori article.
Agemono (Deep-Fried Food)
This category includes tempura, karaage fried chicken, and fried shrimp. Every izakaya puts their own spin on their deep-fried food items.
These are usually cut to the size of French fries, and they can also be cut a little thicker.
Some izakayas serve pizzas just like Italian places, and others substitute mochi or bread for the crust.
Karaage is seasoned chicken thigh meat, rolled in cornstarch or another flour mixture, then deep-fried. It’s the Japanese version of fried chicken.
This is chicken cartilage, coated in flour and deep-fried. Its crunchy texture makes it a popular snack.
These dim sum dumplings are made by wrapping meat in a thin flour shell. They can be fried or cooked in soup, among other serving methods.
Sashimi is fresh raw fish, sliced into easy-to-eat pieces, then flavored with wasabi and other condiments. It’s often served on a platter with several different types.
Fresh seasonal fish is cooked straight on the grill. Another variant known as hoshimono, where the fish is dried for several days before grilling, is also a popular item.
This stew is made by slowly simmering fish, vegetables and other ingredients in a broth made from soy sauce and mirin to create a blend of flavors. Standard nitsuke include the pictured motsu nikomi and niku-jaga.
This famous dish is made by topping a hand-rolled vinegared rice ball with sashimi.
A soup noodle dish, ramen’s roots are in China, but Japanese ramen has evolved into its own unique food.
Originally from China, this dish is chopped vegetables and meat, stir-fried with rice.
Ochazuke is rice topped with an item like seaweed, salmon, pickled plums, or tsukemono. The rice is then covered in dashi broth and tea and eaten.
Sosaku-Ryori (Creative Cookery)
This refers to an izakaya’s unique specialty dish. There is no shortage of interesting dishes which show off what makes a given place special.
Sake is made from fermented rice, and each region of Japan has its own specialty sake, known as ji-zake (local sake). Many izakayas stock various ji-zake varieties.
Shochu is a distilled spirit made from fermented barley, sweet potatoes, buckwheat, rice and the like. The flavors of shochu vary by region. Izakayas stock all the popular varieties, so you can choose the one that best goes with your meal.
Izakayas usually serve beer in steins, but some places also offer cans. Offerings on tap will include beer from major labels, as well as local craft beer.
For more information on sake, shochu and beer, check out our Guide To Japanese Alcoholic Beverages article.
Hoppy has a flavor profile similar to beer, but contains no alcohol. It’s primarily used as a mixer for shochu. For more information, check out our How To Drink Hoppy article.
Chuhai And Sours
These shochu beverages are mixed with tea, soda and fruity carbonated juices instead of cold or hot water. For more information, check out our chuhai article.
Umeshu (Plum Wine) And Other Fruit Liqueurs Umeshu, or plum wine, is a fruit-flavored beverage made by steeping unripe plums and cube sugar together in liquor. Some izakayas put their own spin on umeshu, with apricot wine, yuzu citrus wine and more.
These 0% ABP beers and fruit juice cocktails taste like alcohol, but don’t contain any alcohol.