One of the most frequent complaints about Midtown restaurants used to be the lack of parking. But don’t let that deter you now that attractions such as Fluff Bake Bar, Izakaya and Rico’s Morning + Noon + Night have opened in the neighborhood. You can park free in the Bagby parking garage behind Izakaya for 90 minutes, and that’s more than enough time to enjoy a Power Lunch at this new Japanese eatery.
That’s right, power lunches are back. At least they’re part of the new lunch menu at Izakaya. The “Japanese pub and plates” concept from The Azuma Group (Kata Robata, Soma Sushi, Azuma Sushi & Robata) has been open for a few months and just started serving lunch two weeks ago.
The Power Lunch menu features four different plates, and each comes with your choice of a side and a bowl of miso soup – just $12.99. During our most recent visit, we ordered the meatball sandwich (photo below). The two miniature subs were served on French rolls and each held two Texas antelope meatballs along with kimchi marinara and Houston Dairymaids cheese. Not a fan of the garlicky, pickled flavors of traditional Korean kimchi? Don’t fret – these tender, rich meatballs stole the show away from what we would have guessed was a classic marinara.
The miso soup is not your powder-and-hot-water bowl of bland broth. Dense with silky tofu and different varieties of mushrooms, we felt it was the perfect starter for lunch on a chilly day. And while the side we chose – Izakaya fries – would have satisfied the ultimate bonito flake fan, we barely made a dent in them as the two miniature subs were so filling.
The Power Lunch is only a small player on Izakaya’s lunch menu. Perhaps you’re the type to want something more authentic when eating at a Japanese joint. In that case, the crepe-style Okonomiyaki might ring your bell. Kewpie mayo and dancing bonito flakes bend the “less is more” rule. In this case, more is more. Also topping the thin pancake is tonkatsu sauce and lots of slivered green onions — this is a heavily decorated appetizer.
Diners who want to balance the tangy and savory with a cocktail should note that the bar is diversely stocked, and you’ll find mezcal and Cognac on the colorful cocktail menu as well as sake-based drinks. We tried three cocktails, two of which are on the current menu. The Tokyo Sunset (you choose either vodka or tequila) features lemon soda and a dramatic topper of bright beet juice (photo above). The Grand Kiwi Kiji has mezcal, shochu, kiwi, cacao and shavings of nutmeg. Just like many of the food menu items at Izakaya, the flavor combinations may puzzle or even throw you off at first. But ultimately the arrangements succeed.
If you are a less-adventurous eater, opt for the katsu don (photo above). The fried pork cutlet is served with onions, thinly sliced carrots and mushrooms, plus a fried egg on top, all resting on white rice.
If you’re more of a high-protein luncher, finely diced tuna poke may be your best bet. There’s so much flavor coming from a single dish – bright snappy ginger, picked tomato, tart lime, tangy vinaigrette – that if you’re more commonly a heavy eater because you need variety, you’ll find plenty of dimension and satisfaction on this plate.
We’ve also eaten dinner at Izakaya – but the menu is different, more diverse and more in depth. We owe it its own post.
IZAKAYA, 318 Gray at Bagby, 713-527-8988, houstonizakaya.com