Izakaya Birthday suggestions?
I am planning a bday party (around 15 people), and need suggestions for a very good, cheapish izakaya. I was thinking izayoi, but i think it's too small for such a party, so I thought of Haru Ulala, but I've read very mixed reviews. birthday boy is a self-proclaimed foodie (read: kinda picky) japanese guy, whose pet peeve is overpriced food, so none of this super-pricey fusion izakaya. I need the real deal...
We did end up going to Haru Ulala, because the party was big and they take reservations. I was decidedly underwhelmed. The best part of the meal was the birthday cake (which i bought last minute at wild oats). They were nice enough to bring it out with plates and a candle.
However, for those looking for a wonderful (though a little on the BRIGHT side) Izakaya/yakitori place, go to terried sake house on sawtelle. So far, it has been the only restaurant (including the much touted Izayoi) that I think can even touch Musha in torrance. And it's cheaper. Everthing we ate was simple and delicious. even the lotus root, which usually tastes like a bunch of nothin' was seasoned wonderfully and had the satisfying crunch of a potato chip. The only thing that wasn't absolutely great (according to my dining partner), was the gizzard...but what can you expect from a gizzard? Oh, also, the requisite green tea icecream was that brand that has a slight Mr. Bubble aftertaste. skip it. Other than that the only unpleasant parts of the evening were the drunk couple next to us who loudly nicknamed the sushi chef "Sexy San" and kept shouting it to him while he smiled uncomfortably, and the fact that our waiter, who spoke Japanese to the rest of the waitstaff, refused to speak it to my partner, who addressed him in Japanese (cuz that's his first language). That wasn't really a negative, except he wondered if somehow his japanese wasn't good enough for him. Were we experiencing quebecois-like discrimination where if you don't speak french with the perfect quebec accent you receive a giant eye-roll, sigh, and english in return? Who knows...
Your original post was Jan. 29th, so I am probably too late for my comments to help you decide. I also read many mixed reviews for Haru Ulala. I thought the only way for me to really find out was to eat there myself. After eating there, I now have VERY mixed reviews of this place. First is that the name on the outside is Haru Ulala, yet my credit card statement says, "Haru Urara". Typo or not? Secondly, some of my guests were non-fish eaters which forced me to order for them almost all of their veggie, chicken and beef dishes cooked in various ways. Most were average and some not very special. The kara age (fried chicken nuggets) were spit out (graciously) by my guests because they were described as soggy grease-bombs. I agreed. The grilled enoki mushrooms were very stringy and semi-mushy, very unappetizing. The shitake were very small and thin as were the oyster mushrooms. What surprised me the most was that I thought that I was ordering enough food for all of us and they pulled the old one-stick-per-order-trick on me. That does not jive with me (serious pet P!).
Here's where the confusion sets in. I ordered sushi, mostly from the specials board. I am at least smart enough to know that what is on that board is FRESH and they are telling me what I should order. I ordered three different nigiri sushi (slices of fish on top of rice). Thank goodness that the nigiri was came in pairs or I would have blown my top. I ordered uni, buri (hamachi/yellowtail) and aji (spanish mackerel). All were fresh and delicious and the cuts of fish were generous. The uni was a little small, yet very briny-fresh and "dry".
The bill came to about $100 for three of us, but considering the one-stick trick, not much seafood, not great non-fish items, only two large beers plus we did not leave full...my overall experience at Haru Urara-lala is not positive. If I did return it would be mostly for seafood and seafoody items. I'll have to read many more positive posts before I get convinced to return. Many have similarly said, "There are too many places to try in L.A....there is no need to return to a place that servces bad food".
izayoi has a nice private upstairs space
furaibo on sawtelle
musha in santa monica
sake house miro, www.wakehousemiro.com
ita-cho, 323-938-9009, 7311 beverly blvd
azuma izakaya, 16123 s western ave, gardena, 310-532-8623
orris, www.orrisrestaurant.com, 310-268-2212, on sawtelle
japonica in redondo beach, www.japnoicacdining.com
katana, www.katanarobata.com, 8439 w sunset blvd, 323-650-858
izakya yuzu in weho, 310-659-2067, 8711 santa monica blvd
sasaya on santa monica blvd in west lost angeles 310-477-4404
uerukamu, www.japaneserestaurantnavi.com/ueruka..., 818-609-0993, tarzana
How much is cheapish?
I've been able to eat at Musha Santa Monica for $25 a head, just food. But you'll have to order a little carefully. Don't get me wrong, you'll be full and you'll eat well, but some dishes are just larger than others.
I just went to Wakasan last week (and experienced my first LA star siting--a dual one, at that!). We had some beers, but I think without drinking it was $35 after tax and tip for 12 courses and ice cream. Incredibly good deal. I haven't posted photos yet, but will later today.