First Look: The Izakaya at Daikaya in Washington D.C.
Hot on the heels of its ramen shop downstairs (check out our first look here), Daikaya has recently opened an izakaya, which draws from the flavors of traditional Japanese bar snacks while adding its own unique flair. Daikaya adheres to the philosophy of the izakaya, a very "freestyle" form of dining. Co-owner Daisuke Utagawa emphasizes the concept of grazing and not having to "know the plan" when you sit down. Izakayas are meant to be very democratic and "everyone should feel like they belong." As such, chef Katsuya Fukushima, who worked under José Andrés for years, has created a menu of down-to-earth yet inventive bar food.
Grilled avocado ($6.25), for example, is filled with ponzu, wasabi, and nori salt—scoop out the avocado's innards with a spoon. The pork and brussel sprout skewers ($5.25) are essentially Fukushima's take on okonomiyaki, the popular Japanese street food. Because Okonomiyaki is so labor-intensive, it's not really feasible to make in Daikaya's small kitchen so Fukushima created this dish to preserve its prominent flavors.
The 90-seat space incorporates distinctly Japanese design touches such as copious amounts of natural wood, walls lined with Japanese fabric and Japanese manga, and stacks of Japanese beer crates. Utagawa wanted to "evoke the heart of Japan" and the feel of an authentic izakaya, but didn't want it to feel like a transplant. "It's important to understand the heart of diners here.
The bar program includes a large selection of sakes, shochus, Japanese whiskeys, and cocktails crafted by bar director Eddie Kim (formerly of Room 11). The Rickey-san ($12) is a variation on the classic Gin Rickey with yuzu, which gives it a stronger citrusy acidity. There are a variety of mocktails available too that use green tea soda and yuzu. Kim is even working on a rarefied sake bomb using spherified sake (stay tuned).
The crowd so far? A combination of hipsters, Hill staffers, and people just off the plane from Japan. Check out a sample of the Daikaya izakaya's food in the slideshow!