Difference between Izakaya and sozai style of Japanese food? [San Diego]
Is there a difference between "Izakaya" (as used in SD) and "sozai" (as used in SF) style of Japanese tapas? Beside Izakaya (on Convoy) and Yu Me Ya (in Encinitas), are there any other Japanese restaurants recommended for this type of fare?
Sozai does not refer to a cuisine, and there's a bit of ambiguity when using just the romanized Japanese form. There is sozai and souzai, which are two different things. (If you had a link to the kanji, or Chinese character, this can help disambiguate the meaning.)
Sozai just stands for key materials, though I am more used to hearing the word zairyou used which stands for ingredients, especially when used in a culinary context. Souzai stands for a side dish or daily household dish. (The "zai" part of each of these words comes from the same kanji.)
Are you sure this was used in a context to refer to a cuisine, or perhaps was it used as a name of an establishment? And if the latter, do you know what they use in their signage/graphics (Chinese characters [kanji], romanized Japanese [romaji], or phonetic Japanese [kana])? It is not uncommon for there to be a purposeful ambiguity/pun in Japanese names. In such a case they may not use kanji at all, as that would disambiguate the meaning and make it "too precise"...
When I reread your question I realized that you were also looking for suggestions. In San Diego I've found Izakaya Sakura to have the most competent kitchen. It's the place I always go to entertain visiting family and guests when we are not looking for sushi. There was a terrible period where for many months their kitchen was in the dumps and the place would be nearly empty. Since then they seem to have "recovered". Though I haven't returned too many times since they've been excellent on my past few visits, just like the good 'ole Sakura I used to know.
Yumeya and Tajima don't quite fit the bill as an izakaya, as their menus are too narrow and their kitchen's not as competent. But if you do like what they have on offer they do offer a more "izakaya-like feel" than Sakura's undecorated, "plain box" room.