Head to Fishtown and discover Izakaya by Yanaga for some great sushi and small plates

-Brenda Hillegas

Last night, my sushi dreams were fulfilled as I checked out Kevin Yanaga’s new restaurant in Fishtown (1832 Frankford Ave.), Izakaya by Yanaga. Kevin Yanaga is known as Philly’s sushi whisperer and his plates did not disappoint! Yanaga brings over 10 years of experience to this new restaurant where he serves as not just executive chef but also partner. He’s been a part of some of our area’s top sushi restaurants like Izakaya at Borgata, Double Knot (another one of my favorites), Pod, Morimoto and Zama.

Here’s a bit of what I ordered. Everything was delicious, beautifully plated, great atmosphere, and drinks for every taste! I hope you’ll check it out too!

The first drinks my friend and I tried were very well crafted. Just right! In the front is the 5-7-5 with rice vodka, fresh lemon juice, umeboshi shrub, Calpico (I LOVE CALPICO so this was really exciting and unique). My friend also went the lemon route with Tea Time- hojicha tea infused gin, ginger and honey syrup, chamomile and topped with a brûléed lemon!

The cocktails were all very creative (more below), but if that’s not your thing you can also pick from a variety of draft beers. Asahi Japanese rice lager is currently on the menu as well as some fun seasonal stuff like Heavy Seas pumpkin ale and Cape May Brewing’s tart grape ale. I’m a little bummed I didn’t order any of those, but the cocktails were too fun to miss! And of course there’s sake! Ten different varieties for now with four by the glass and six by the bottle. There will also be a rotating selection of “cup” Sake.

We started our meal with a couple of the small plates. The curry short rib bao buns are a MUST. Actually, most of the menu is so I’m not much help here. There are two gyoza / dumpling options, so if you’re vegetarian give the mushroom one a try. We loved the pork variety with the red pepper mustard. And of course the oishi shrimp tacos. These are perfect size plates to share if you’re out with a friend or a significant other. It’s so easy to fill up on all of them too and just enjoy with a few cocktails. Lastly, we ordered the duck onigiri (pictured below with some sushi and another drink) because we saw a few other tables had it and it looked delicious. This is definitely on the must-try list. Get it.

The sushi…
I never met a roll I didn’t like. In last night’s case, I went with some favorites though. All of them were excellent. Great sized bites, packed with flavor, well made. Pictured above with the duck is the shrimp tempura roll. Below is the snow crab. I think this was the best one of the night. Not pictured is the cucumber avocado roll because I was too damn excited and ate it all. Oops. I know, the camera should eat first. Next time.

Delicious snow crab sushi.
Our next (and final) round of drinks was the Meet Me Off the L (on the left) with Japanese whiskey, alo-e sibona, montenegro and torched orange. Kait got the When East Meets West with Junmai sake, blanco tequila, St. Germaine, yuzu and shisho.

Lastly, I ordered the hamachi from the sashimi bar menu. It included peaches, ponzu vinaigrette and chive oil. This was awesome. Sweet and a bit of heat. I could eat this all day every day. And the ramen. I cannot wait to sign off from this post and go eat my leftovers. The presentation was gorgeous and you can see every bit of the ingredients. This is the tantan mazemen variety with meat sauce and peanuts. There’s also a vegetarian option.

You can find out more about this new restaurant and the menu in the press release posted last month. Later this fall, Izakaya by Yanaga will offer expanded hours, launch a happy hour menu, debut lunch service and host weekend brunches. There are also plans to release a special house exclusive beer in partnership with a local brewer. In October or November, Yanaga and Glu Hospitality will open the second concept under the same roof with the Omakase by Yanaga chef’s tasting room.

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