Japanese Izakaya Style Of Food: What Is It Exactly?

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Japanese Izakaya are a style of casual Japanese bar that offers alcoholic beverages and small plates. Izakaya are informal drinking establishments, much like a pub, a tapas bar in Spain, or a saloon or tavern in the United States. Izakaya are a common dining style that dates back to the 19th century. They’re casual bars where people go to eat, drink, and chat with friends and coworkers. The small portions that are intended to be shared among a group of people are what characterise the Izakaya cuisine. This style of dining is intended to be informal and laid-back, with a focus on mingling over meals. But, what exactly is the izakaya style of food?

Izakaya style of food typically consists of grilled meat and seafood, sake-steamed meals, salads, and tiny plates like sushi, sashimi, and tempura are some of the most well-liked foods served in an Izakaya. A variety of vegetarian options are also available.

Izakaya have maintained their level of standard for food since they pretty much came around in Japan all those years ago. These bars are famous around the world for their small plates and grilled meats, but also for their alcoholic beverages; the main choice being Sake. There is much more to an Izakya’s menu than what we have already listed, however, so let’s dive deeper.

What Is A Common Izakaya Menu?

An izakaya’s menu often combines traditional Japanese foods with more modern, fusion-style dishes. Typical menu items at an izakaya are as follows:

  • Beef Tataki
  • Sashimi
  • All Kinds of Nigiri
  • All Kinds of Sushi
  • A5 Wagyu Steak (Typically Kobe Beef)
  • Gyoza
  • Miso Soup
  • Takoyaki
  • Tempura
  • Grilled meats
  • Mushroom Dishes
  • Ribs
  • Ramen
  • Bento

And so much more…

They also serve beer, sake, and shochu, a distilled alcohol made from barley, sweet potato, or rice. These drinks are also a huge selling factor of izakaya to Japanese residents and tourists.

Why Go To An Izakaya?

The manner the cuisine is presented and served at many Izakaya is one of its distinctive features. Izakaya foods are often served in small servings, frequently on individual plates, as opposed to traditional restaurants, which offer food on enormous plates. As a result, customers can sample a range of foods and experience their various flavours and textures. Izakaya foods are sometimes created to be coupled with beverages, with each dish intended to enhance a certain type of beverage.

Izakaya dining is renowned for its laid-back, informal environment. Izakaya, as opposed to traditional Japanese restaurants, offers a laid-back, social atmosphere with patrons seated at communal tables or at the bar. Izakaya is the perfect setting for socialising, whether you’re catching up with friends or making new acquaintances.

The importance of the service is a further crucial element of Izakaya dining. Izakaya servers are taught to be affable and personable, adding to the ambience of a casual and pleasurable meal. Additionally, they are educated about the menu, providing suggestions and assisting customers in choosing the best meals and beverages based on their preferences.

However, an important thing to note is that some izakaya are extremely traditional and won’t speak very well or any English at all.

For help choosing an English-speaking restaurant in Tokyo, Expedition Tokyo have created an article aimed to help with this issue.

What Are The Essentials of Izakaya

Yakitori, skewered and grilled chicken that has been seasoned with soy sauce, sake, or other seasonings, is one of the most well-liked dishes at an Izakaya. A mainstay of Izakaya cuisine, yakitori is frequently offered as an appetiser or a main dish. Sashimi, which consists of thin slices of raw fish paired with soy sauce and wasabi, is another well-known dish. Sashimi is a traditional Japanese dish that is frequently ordered in Izakayas.

Another well-liked dish at Izakaya restaurants is tempura. This meal is prepared by lightly battering veggies or seafood and deep-frying them until crispy. For guests seeking a crunchy and filling dish, tempura is a great option. Often served with a dipping sauce for heightened flavour.

A variety of fusion-style dishes are also offered by various Izakaya in addition to these traditional ones. Traditional Japanese ingredients are combined with more modern flavours and cooking methods in these recipes. Like tofu steak, which is produced by grilling tofu with a variety of seasonings and sauces, some Izakaya may provide this meal. Sushi burritos, which are sushi rolls wrapped in a sizable sheet of seaweed and stuffed with a variety of ingredients, may be available at other Izakaya.

In Izakaya dining, sake is the most frequently ordered beverage. This traditional Japanese rice wine is frequently sipped alongside meals in Izakayas. Sake is available in a wide range of tastes and intensities, and it is frequently combined with particular foods in order to enhance the flavours of both the drink and the meal. Many Izakaya serve a variety of beer and other alcoholic beverages in addition to sake, in addition to non-alcoholic refreshments including soda and tea.

The use of seasonal, local foods is a key component of Izakaya cuisine. The use of seasonal ingredients and fresh, locally obtained ingredients is highly valued by many Izakaya. This implies that, depending on the availability of ingredients, the menu at an Izakaya may alter during the course of the year. This emphasis on regional, seasonal ingredients contributes to the freshness and quality of the meal while also supporting regional farmers and producers.

Are Izakaya Expensive?

Izakaya prices might vary significantly based on the restaurant’s location and standard. While some Izakaya offer reasonably priced food ($5–$10), others may charge higher prices ($15–$30) for their entrees. Izakaya dining is a well-liked option among both locals and tourists since it offers exceptional value for the high-quality cuisine and drinks that you receive, regardless of the cost.


Izakaya cuisine, in sum, offers a distinctive and pleasurable dining experience that is rooted in Japanese culture and tradition. It is no surprise that Izakaya has become so well-known in Japan and across the globe given its focus on mingling, small meals, and a laid-back ambience. An Izakaya experience is one that should not be missed, whether you’re wanting to taste new and interesting dishes, catch up with friends, or just enjoy a nice dinner with a group.

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