Philly’s “Sushi Whisperer” Kevin Yanaga Debuts Izakaya by Yanaga in Fishtown

-Courtesy of Aversa PR & Events
photos by Eddy Marenco

Glu Hospitality and Philly’s “Sushi Whisperer” Kevin Yanaga announce the opening of Izakaya by Yanaga in Fishtown at 1832 Frankford Avenue. Yanaga brings over 10 years of experience in the the top sushi restaurants in the region, including at Izakaya at Borgata, Double Knot, Pod, Morimoto and Zama. After working with Stephen Starr, Michael Schulson and some of the biggest names in the business, Yanaga will now open his very first restaurant as Executive Chef and Partner. For his first outing, Yanaga will debut two concepts under one roof. Izakaya by Yanaga will open first just in time for fall dining season, followed by chef’s tasting room Omakase by Yanaga in late fall. Izakaya will open for a Labor Day Weekend preview on Thursday, September 2 to Saturday, September 4, 2021, from 5:00pm to 10:00pm nightly. After closing for Labor Day and additional interior work, Izakaya will officially open for regular daily service starting on Thursday, September 9, 2021 with weekly hours running Wednesday to Sunday, 4:00pm to 10:00pm nightly. Reservations are available now by calling 267-758-6275. Reservations will also be available on Open Table starting this week. For more information, visit and follow @izakayabyyanaga @gluhospitality on social media.

“I am proud to team up with Glu Hospitality for my very first restaurant,” said Yanaga. “The restaurant will feature two separate and unique concepts under the same roof. Izakaya by Yanaga will offer a more casual dining and bar experience for locals, catering to the surrounding neighborhood and repeat customers. When it is ready, Omakase will offer a higher end dining experience that is more upscale, personalized and intimate. There will be a higher price point with expanded sake and Japanese scotch and whiskey program, plus exclusive cocktails paired with the offerings.”

He continued, “I wanted to offer a restaurant experience that is currently lacking in the Fishtown, Kensington and Northern Liberties area of Philadelphia. Those three neighborhoods are full of such exciting and boundary-pushing restaurants, and this seemed the perfect place to break out on my own and add to the mix. I wanted to create a new restaurant that is friendly and approachable, yet has a second side with elevated food and drink selections not typically seen in our area. We want to be both a neighborhood restaurant for locals, as well as a culinary destination for people traveling across and into the region.”

For the new restaurant, Yanaga and Glu will feature two side-by-side concepts in 2,500 square feet of space. Izakaya will operate in the front bar and front dining room with around 60 seats, with Omakase to operate the private dining room in the back with around 12 seats, located through the double doors in the middle of the restaurant. Below ground, the basement level features a giant kitchen that gives ample space for the two concepts to co-exist and thrive side-by-side.

First to open will be Izakaya by Yanaga, a fresh and fun Japanese cuisine concept that will feature traditional dishes plus Yanaga’s modernized twist on the classics. The hot section of the menu will showcase the same expertise and attention to detail as the sushi and raw side of the menu. Dining and kitchen service will be free flowing, whereas guests are encouraged to order a number of small and large plates to enjoy and share. The culinary team will prepare an ebb and flow for the dishes, and send them out as prepared to create an experience that is unique for every visit. Dishes at Izakaya will be a mix of hot and cold, cooked and raw, and small and large plates. Dishes will be priced and portioned perfect for sharing.  At the bar, look for a vast selection of Sake options, most of which are not currently available anywhere else in the city. Additionally, bar patrons will find a selection of eight hand-craft cocktails that use ingredients from the kitchen to optimize pairings of food with drink. Additionally, there will be six beer and cider beers on draft, as well as in bottles and cans. The beer program will focus on Japanese beers, locally made craft beers, unique ciders, seltzers, as well as a few American favorites. The bar program is rounded out by the wine program, with around a dozen selections available by the glass and bottle.

Born in California but raised in Japan, Kevin Yanaga got his start in professional cooking in Kawasaki, Kanagawa Prefecture. Though his home city sits on Tokyo Bay, a short distance south from the bustling capital, the longtime sushi chef found his earliest work in kitchens, manning the burners in a series of Izakayas, or casual pubs.

Long fascinated by the artform, Yanaga logged his first real experience preparing sushi back in the States, as the executive chef of Naked Fish in Salt Lake City, Utah. In addition to immersing himself in the nuances of preparation and sourcing, Yanaga also fell in love with the high pressure, interactive nature of the sushi bar, solidifying his career path. “You’ll get direct feedback from your guest,” he says. “You’re always getting judged, finding out if people like your work, so you have to have so much discipline. It motivates you to be your best.”

In 2009, Yanaga relocated to Philadelphia to grow his raw-fish repertoire, starting at STARR’s flagship Morimoto before becoming the head chef at Hiroyuki Tanaka’s Zama, in Philly’s Rittenhouse Square. This position gave him the opportunity to develop his own style in the context of sushi, marrying local ingredients and Western culinary techniques with traditional Japanese touches via omakase, multi-course tasting menus that showcased his original voice.

Next up for Yanaga was a run behind the eight-seat sushi bar at Izakaya, chef Michael Schulson’s Japanese restaurant in the Borgata Hotel & Casino in Atlantic City, N.J. Success here led to Schulson installing Yagana as the main sushi draw at Philadelphia’s Double Knot, where he earned numerous accolades for his innovative omakase stylings, including a rave three-bell review and a “Rising Star Chef Of The Year” nod from The Philadelphia Inquirer, and a “Best Chefs of 2016” honor from Thrillist.

Back with the STARR family as of 2018, Yanaga brings talent, precision and creativity to University City’s Pod as the restaurant’s executive chef. Serving Philadelphia since 2000, the long-running favorite is in the process of evolving physically and conceptually to accommodate contemporary tastes. Driven by his personal  philosophies of culinary fluidity and sustainable sourcing, Yanaga bolsters Pod’s reputation in a restaurant scene that’s ever-changing.

Chef Kevin Yanaga has been a drawing name to many Japanese style restaurants in Philadelphia, with a background working with Starr (POD) and Schulson (Double Knot) restaurants. For his Chef de Cuisine, Yanaga has tapped Tom LoMonte, who most recently came from Zama Restaurant. LaMonte is excited to showcase his own takes on traditional Japanese cuisine, while working side by side with Chef Yanaga to offer both experiences with casual to elevated options.

Yanaga and LoMonte worked side-by-side to execute Chef’s vision for the Izakaya menu, with selections that are both traditional as well as more moderinzed delicacies. Chef will also put his own spin on beloved dishes he grew up with as a child. THe menu features Yanaga’s favorite dishes, that include his take on ramen, dumplings and several raw dishes (sushi, sashimi, nigri). THe menu also features vegan and vegetarian offerings, with other dishes to come in the future.

Izakaya by Yanaga’s bar program will shine the spotlight on a robust selection of Sake, plus unique signature hand-crafted cocktails, a carefully curated list of wine by the glass and bottles, and a selection of American, Japanese and local craft beer, cider and seltzer. The bar program and cocktails was designed by General Manager Michael Ego, in consultation with Glu Hospitality Director of Beverages Ryan Fenton. In coming weeks, Izakaya’s bar will feature a specialized Highball Machine, for a selection of Izakaya signature Highball selections.

Izakaya by Yanaga will spotlight and carry a robust selection of Sake, with 10 different varieties at the start including four by the glass and six by the bottle, as well as a rotating selection of “cup” Sake.

For cocktails, look for hand-crafted signature cocktails that are designed to pair with food offerings, plus a selection of HighBall options. By incorporating the HighBall machine, Izakaya aims to give patrons access to a traditional Japanese classic.

For wines, Izakaya will feature a rotating selection of four reds, four whites and several prosecco offerings by the glass and bottle, with additional higher end offerings by the bottle as well.

Izakaya will feature a draft system featuring six lines pouring Japanese selections, American crafts and locally made selections.

Additional beer and ciders will be available in bottles and cans, including a robust selection of IPAs, sour ales, wheat ales, hard seltzers, porters, stouts, saisons, and farmhouse ales. There will also be around a half dozen rotating selection of Japanese beers, including Hitachino, Sapporo, Kirin and others.

For interior design, Glu Hospitality has tapped the creative talents of John Christinzio and Quest Design, who are also hard at work at the same time wrapping work at Figo Ristorante and Figo Pizzeria.

For layout, look for a 25 feet long bar to the left, featuring a stunning polished marble bar top. Behind, look for Sake, wine and spirit selections on wooden shelves made from reclaimed wood. To the right of the bar area look for seating at two and four-tops for a total of 24 seats. Beyond the bar, there is a small corridor that leads to the second dining room for Izakaya. In the second dining room look for 24 additional seats at two and four tops. Tables can be arranged for groups from six to eight, with additional options for 10, 20 and more with advance arrangements. Beyond the second dining room, are two decorative double doors where Omakase by Yanaga is currently under construction.

For vibes, Izakaya aims to create a modern and polished sleek industrial aesthetic that features reclaimed woods, natural and earth tones, dark lighting, carefully placed pops of color, exposed brick, marble top tables and bar, metal working by Taylor Curtis (Curtis Custom Fab) and artwork by local artist/singer Patty Cash.

Hours for this week are Thursday, Friday and Saturday, from 5:00pm to 10:00pm nightly. Hours on and after Thursday, September 9th are Wednesdays to Sundays, from 4:00pm to 10:00pm nightly, and closed on Mondays.

For more information, menus and reservations, call 267-758-6275, visit and follow @izakayabyyanaga on social media. Look for Izakaya by Yanaga on Open Table to launch by September 2nd.

For special events and private party rentals, interested parties should contact Michael Ego at

Executive Chef and Partner – Kevin Yanaga
Chef de cuisine – Tom LoMonte
General Manager – Michael Ego
Glu Hospitality Group – Tim Lu, CEO
Glu Hospitality Group – Derek Gibbons, Partner and COO
Glu Hospitality – Atit Mehta, Partner and Director of Technology
Interior Designer – John Christinzio, Quest Design
Public Relations – Kory Aversa, Aversa PR & Events

Later this fall, Izakaya by Yanaga will expand hours, launch happy hour, debut lunch service and host weekend brunch. Izakaya will also debut a special house exclusive beer in partnership with a local brewer.

Also this October or November, Yanaga and Glu will open the second concept under the same roof with the Omakase by Yanaga chef’s tasting room.

In addition to Izakaya by Yanaga and Omakase by Yanaga, Glu is also preparing to debut two additional concepts nearby. Figo Ristorante and Figo Pizzeria are now confirmed to open on Friday, September 10th at 1033 N. 2nd Street.

Glu Hospitality currently owns, operates and/or partners on newly opened Bagels and Co., Leda and The Swan, Leda and The Swan Popup Cocktail Garden, Vesper Dayclub, Vesper Center City, Germantown Garden, Germantown Garden Grill, The Igloos at Germantown Garden Grill, Hunnies Crispy Chicken, Tiny’s Burger Joint, and soon to open Figo Ristorante and Figo Pizzeria. Glu also are partners in Anejo Philadelphia and SET NoLibs. Glu currently owns and operates more than 25% of restaurants along and around the Northern Liberties restaurant row on N. 2nd Street.

Glu is actively working on opening future locations for Bagels and Co. Back in Center City, Glu will launch a brand-new dining experience at Vesper Center City. Stay tuned as Glu continues to evolve and pivot out the pandemic as a more food-focused hospitality group with over a dozen concepts open or on the way.

For additional info on the opening of the Igloos at Germantown Garden Grill and associated family programming for the holidays, please stay tuned for more info after Labor Day.

For more about Glu Hospitality, visit

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