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Any Good Izakaya (居酒屋) in Philadelphia?

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Just came back from Toronoto and had some really great experience at two of the Izakaya up there.

Is Yakatori Boy the only Izakaya in Philly? I have been there once before, and it did not blow me away, but it was only a one time experience.


Anyway, any good Izakaya place in Philalphia? Many thanks.

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  1. nope!

    3 Replies
    1. re: alex1018

      :( This is a sad news indeed, but I am not surprise because I could not find anything online neither.

      1. re: Chemicalkinetics

        quite amusing, when I google 居酒屋. I don't think McGillin's has what you're looking for though.

        1. re: Bob Loblaw

          <quite amusing, when I google 居酒屋. I don't think McGillin's has what you're looking for though.>

          I am not understanding.

    2. Looks like there might be one on the way.


      4 Replies
      1. re: Hungryin theBurbs

        :) I read about it, but it seems that Royal has been trying to get started for years and unable to. So I am not having high hopes.

        1. re: Chemicalkinetics

          I was having a beer with a chef who was presenting dishes as an interview for Royal Isakaya about a month ago, so I would assume it's moving forwards sooner than everyone else thinks.

          1. re: der

            Thanks. I would love to try Royal Isakaya. Since my last post, I have been to Yakatori Boy two more times. Both times were good, but not great. Thanks for your information.

            1. re: der

              My only concern would be the authenticity of the experience given that these guys do other pubs outside of Izakaya.

        2. Hiroyuki “Zama” Tanaka of Zama is opening coZara on Drexel's campus in early 2014. His bi-level place is being described as an izakaya.


          1 Reply
          1. re: foobooz

            Thanks. Looking forward

          2. I went to Yakitori Boy again tonight at ~6:30 PM (Wednesday) just to check it out for the second time. It was ok. It wasn't great. The atmosphere was slow. The foods were passable, but not outstanding. I understand that a lot of Izakaya do not have the best food in the world, but it should have at least something going for it (1) a great atmosphere, (2) good quality food or (3) interesting variety of food. I have not seen any of the three from Yakitori Boy tonight. I was told that it get really busy late at night and very busy Friday.

            My server also looked tried. She looks like she did not want to be there.

            17 Replies
            1. re: Chemicalkinetics

              I was planning to have my dinner group check out Yakitori Boy. May have to verify myself before planning the get together. I am also aware of some Izakaya places in the DC area.

              1. re: BlueMango

                :P DC is way too far.

                1. re: BlueMango

                  There was a good one in Baltimore, Pabu, but it recently closed. Izakaya is a little hard to pull off in the States, since on Yelp about 50% of the people will deduct stars for "small portions." SMH

                  1. re: dndicicco

                    Yes, but equally important perhaps, Americans are convinced that authentic Japanese food equals sushi, even though Japanese eat sushi not so often. Yelp is a good barometer of public opinion.

                    1. re: myra

                      Very good point. I was in this boat, and when a Japanese friend visited for a while and did a lot of "home cooking" i was blown away with the tastes, textures, and uber veggies.

                      1. re: myra

                        <Americans are convinced that authentic Japanese food equals sushi, even though Japanese eat sushi not so often>

                        No kidding. I think Japanese food is probably one of the worst represented cuisines in US. I don't mean there are not enough Japanese restaurants. I mean most Japanese restaurants in the US do not represent how Japanese normally eat or what restaurants they have in Japan.

                        1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                          I've started scoping them out by searching for "japanese owners" and "japanese" as opposed to "sushi" when looking for restaurants. I travel a lot in the states, so I've been able to find some authentic places. As always, lots of Japanese people is a great sign, too.

                          A city has to be either a Japanese busy destination (e.g., Detroit) or tourist (e.g., Orlando) to have a real Japanese restaurant.

                          Finally, these restaurants almost always have a 3-3.5 rating on Yelp, because of portion sizes and the Japanese coolness toward let's say boorish types of Americans.

                          1. re: dndicicco

                            <Finally, these restaurants almost always have a 3-3.5 rating on Yelp,>

                            I was just about to say that 3-3.5 is pretty good. Then I check Yelp and remember that it has a 5 stars system, not 4. (I was thinking 3.5 stars out of 4).

                            Since I live in New Jersey, but come to Philadelphia every week, do you have any Japanese restaurant recommendation in Philly? Not including sushi of course.

                            1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                              Unfortunately, there are no Japanese-owned or run restaurants in Philadelphia proper (except the Morimoto conglomerate).

                              1. re: dndicicco

                                Hiroyuki Tanaka who owns coZara is likely Japanese. Unless that's a pseudonym.

                                1. re: myra

                                  You are correct. But the entire idea plays into the whole "authenticity" fallacy that somehow only someone who is of a specific ethnicity can cook those dishes. Just look at what Andy Ricker has done with Pok Pok.

                                  1. re: Boognish

                                    True. Locally, Stock on Girard Ave is serving pho that is among the best in the city. The chef if a white guy.

                                    Here is an article about local chefs cooking cuisines "not their own": http://articles.philly.com/2014-07-10...

                                    1. re: Boognish

                                      You don't have to be of that ethnicity to be able to cook those dishes but you do need to immerse yourself in that culture to get a full understanding of the nuances associated with the food in that culture. There is going to be a big difference between someone who spends time in Japan learning their craft as opposed to someone who is taught mostly in the US. Andy Ricker spent decades in Thailand which falls within the line of what I am saying.

                                      1. re: BlueMango

                                        But what if you studied directly under, let's say, Morimoto for 20 years? I lived in Japan for more than a few years, and let me tell you, there's plenty of lousy Japanese cooks.

                                        1. re: Boognish

                                          <But what if you studied directly under, let's say, Morimoto for 20 years?>

                                          I think that is a bit of an exception. In addition, culinary is like art. You don't just learn from your teacher. You also get to learn from the overall environment. It is certainly easier to learn about Japanese food when you live in Japan than when you live in Alaska.

                                          It help (a lot), but it is not required.

                                          1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                            Well said. I was going to respond with the same as well.

                                            1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                              It may be easier, but it is no guarantee of future success or replication is my point, although I guess that goes without saying.

                                              Don't get me wrong: when I moved from Japan to Philadelphia, I was very disappointed in the lack of authentically Japanese restaurants here. Sagami is such a treasure in that aspect.

                    2. I would be surprised if Izakaya found a place in Philadelphia. Yelp reviewers would kill it for small portions and high prices! I just don't see it aligning well with the Philly vibe.

                      6 Replies
                      1. re: dndicicco

                        So people in Philly like cheaper food and larger portions? This may also explain why Philadelphia does not have any higher end Chinese dim sum.

                        1. re: dndicicco

                          I'm a Philadelphian and gladly pay more money for smaller portions when the food quality and service make it worth it. Tapas and small plates are very popular here and I don't hear much griping from people that dine at places other than Applebees. If Ranstead Room/Franklin Mortgage/Hop Sing can charge $14 per cocktail, and sooo many chef-owned Philly restaurants can charge what they do for small plates and tasting menus, I think a quality izakaya can charge what they think is necessary to serve me some delicious grilled chicken bits, etc.

                          1. re: dndicicco

                            dude! that is exactly what everyone is saying about the new izakaya place CoZara on yelp lol and my friends have been saying that too. But those people who knows izakaya knows that the price is actually pretty normal.

                            1. re: hsiao0118

                              I read those Yelp reviews and it looks as though it's being dinged for food more so than price. Now that I read it's operated/owned by the Zama owner, I don't have high hopes at all. Zama is far from authentic, and trying to do izakaya seems to be a disaster in waiting to me.

                              1. re: hsiao0118

                                What do you think of this new place? I haven't been there.

                                1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                  Oh, I haven't been, but I'm saying my hopes are not high. I don't find Zama serious, considering the bevy of non-traditional rolls, the fake wasabi, the lack of shiso leafs or more exotic fishes, etc. I imagine an izakaya in University City can't be shooting for high standards...and I'm very picky with these types of things so I'd be a bad (read annoying) reviewer.

                            2. Tried coZara yesterday afternoon and it was a pleasant surprise. I recommend it. We drank Hitachino beers, and ordered a lot of food, all of which we liked: a very nice seaweed salad, fried anchovies, hokke( grilled mackerel),Hawaiian poke tuna, grilled okra, grilled rice, and a dessert pancakes with green tea cream. Mmm. We liked everything. My husband is Japanese American, so we have some izakaya experience and a lot of interest, and we thought it was recognizably different from Japan, but still very enjoyable. Our most recent other experience, in SF, was better, and more aesthetically presented, but it was also more expensive. We're happy to have this place in Philadelphia, the prices are reasonable, and I'm hoping it can survive here. There's much more to Japanese food than sushi!

                              2 Replies
                              1. re: myra

                                Thank for the heads-up.

                                <There's much more to Japanese food than sushi!>

                                Ain't that the truth?

                                1. re: myra

                                  Oh cool, thanks for the review! I was extremely skeptical based on some dicey yelp reviews.