A plausible 6 p.m. conversation: "What do you wanna eat for dinner?" "Japanese food. I'm feeling sushi tonight." For the majority of us Los Angeles residents, we tend to view Japanese food as synonymous with sushi. Maybe this premature assumption has to do with the numerous sushi bars scattered around L.A., including restaurants such as Nobu, equally famous for their sushi as they are celebrity sightings. Yet, there are many aspects of the typical sushi bar that aren't exactly authentic. Most of us are familiar with the popular "California Roll" - but just the name alone gives away any real Japanese authenticity. And here is the disheartening truth to sushi-lovers such as myself, told me to me by my very own Japanese best friend: In Japan, people hardly even eat sushi, let alone "California" rolls!
So if sushi isn't the staple for Japanese food, what is? Answer: Izakaya. Izakayas are typically known for their relaxed atmosphere as well as their home style cooking. Dining at an izakaya restaurant is much like eating a homemade dinner in a traditional Japanese home. I'm actually a big fan of izakaya style restaurants and just this past weekend dined at my particularly favorite one in downtown Little Tokyo called T.O.T. The area inside is snug, but the food is satisfying in the way only a home cooked meal could be. I snapped some pictures of the exterior, interior and most importantly the food (Japanese Seafood Stew) just to wet your appetite.
In Japan, izakayas are mostly known for their cheap prices and sake bars frequented by business men after a long days' work. The term "izakaya" in Japanese has separate two parts: "i" means "to remain," and "sakaya" translates to "sake shop." Izakayas actually originated from sake shops, and although they have grown to encompass a wide-rage of home style foods, have no fear - there still remains no shortage of sake.
Although perhaps not as popular as trendy sushi bars, izakaya dining offers a sense of Japanese authenticity and a down to earth setting that leaves both your mood and wallet feeling pretty good. Maybe it's time to give something other than sushi a try.