As promised, I went back to try the izakaya and had some much needed girl time with Stephanie. What a fun night!
We got there at the tail end of happy hour and Stephanie had miraculous been able to grab two seats at the bar- apparently it was an hour and half wait for a table!
They had Sapporo and it’s not usually my first choice but it was on tap. It went down smooth. I know there’s no physical taste added but it just tastes better to drink from the official designated Sapporo glass with the word 生 on it. It might as well translate to, “Welcome home, babe.”
Being the gracious host he is, Chef Katsuya started us off with an amuse bouche: a buttery cracker topped with a goat cheese (and cream cheese blend?) and shiokara (salt-fermented squid). There are just a couple occasions I willingly volunteered to eat shiokara…this makes number three. It was also very amusing that not two seconds before, Stephanie confined to me that she was not feeling too adventurous tonight. (The last few times Stephanie joined me at a Japanese place I had her try uni, ikura, and other favorites. She’s a trooper for trying and I don’t blame her for wanting a break! I apologize if I’ve been a food tyrant; I get so excited!) We looked at each other, shrugged and popped them into our mouths. Thank goodness for the goat cheese blend to counter the shiokara! It was actually pretty good and hey, got my taste buds going. It also made me appreciate my beer even more ;)
Stephanie and I ordered a few of their dishes. She had their kushiyaki (on a stick) shishitou peppers and chicken thigh. I tried the shishitou and thought it was clever to serve with gouda cheese to compliment the slight bitterness of the fruit.
I had the cod roe spaghetti. I enjoyed it and found it to be mild. It was difficult picking up those distinct cod roe flavors and I missed the seaweed, which, in my opinion, ties the dish together. (Katsuya, according to my photo there was no seaweed, as I suspected!!) The caviar was a nice touch but only for the eyes since I couldn’t taste it at all and my tongue don’t like being toyed with like that.
Chef Katsuya sent us his karaage (Japanese style fried chicken), the grilled avocado, and the eggplant. The karaage was juicy and I loved the fresh wasabi with the avocado. I wasn’t a fan of the eggplant and felt it was out of place on the menu. Maybe a nasu dengaku (miso) would be a better fit?
Lastly, we ordered the onigiri (rice balls). I had the kombu and Stephanie had the pork. It looked good, it felt good, and the bartender even told me how to wrap the seaweed around it (I got it, hunny). Unfortunately, I cannot deny that I was sorely. Deeply. Disappointed. That there was no salt on the onigiri. Chef Katsuya explained it was another compromise he made to fit the palate of his American patrons. Stephanie didn’t understand the big deal noting it tasted just fine to her. Here is where I struggle despite my post about authenticity when I first met Chef Katsuya. Where do you draw the line? See, it’s supposed to be salty. It’s supposed to replenish our electrolytes after working up a sweat all morning in the fields (back in the day). The onigiri is the Japanese equivalent to a sandwich. Without salt, it’s like a plain ham sandwich- just the bread and the meat. Sure, some prefer it that way so then give us the option! Please Chef Katsuya, I beg you, at least put salt on the side like you did with the avocado. Oo, you know what would be cool? To have a block of pink Himalayan salt that you shave onto the onigiri much like cracked pepper or parmesan on pasta. Ok, maybe that’s too much but really, some salt onegai!
All in all, Stephanie and I had a great time and we were really pleased with the experience. Daikaya’s izakaya has a fun décor, exciting menu, and friendly staff. I can’t wait to go again :)