A Trip to the Izakaya-Umami Continued

Monahan's Seafood Market | Fresh Whole Fish, Fillets, Shellfish, Recipes, Catering & Lunch Counter-Ann Arbor, Michigan

kitchen hanzoSometimes strange culinary coincidences happen. Last week’s fish report recipe was pickled fried smelt, Japanese Nabanzuke style. This method using dashi stock was a new and delicious discovery for my wife and me and it started us back on a Japanese food kick that began in the ‘70s when the sushi craze was becoming popular in the Midwest.

Last Saturday night we had a fantastic dining experience with our friend and Webmaster, Wendy Williams (she designed the fish report for us), and her boyfriend Mike, at Kitchen Hanzo Izakaya in West Bloomfield. The I in Izakaya means “to stay” and zakaya comes from sakaya or sake shop.

Back in the olden days, sake shop owners in Japan would put out small snack foods to serve with their sake and eventually these places grew to become casual gathering places to relax, let loose, drink not only sake but beer, shochu (a clear liquor distilled from sweet potatoes, barley, rice or buckwheat), wine and even high end cocktails. The food that is served is mainly inexpensive small dishes that can be shared. The value is great and the offerings represent the best of a cross section of Japanese cuisine. We’ve dined in lots of Japanese restaurants and sushi bars; this was our first experience at an Izakaya. These are the pubs of Japan and are similar to Irish pubs in their friendly community meeting place atmosphere, or Spanish tapas bars for the same reason, plus their often amazing, varied, and delicious food offerings.

We walk into Kitchen Hanzo (located in a strip mall on Haggerty Road of all places) and quickly notice that besides Wendy and Mike everyone is Japanese- (I’m liking this place already)! It’s crowded, colorful and lively and decorated with old sake bottles, what looks like a slot machine is over in the corner. As far as I can tell, all the menu items are in Japanese, which was great ‘cause the dishes that kept coming out were chef’s choice and always a surprise, and so good!

Now back to the culinary coincidences: The first dish that was served was nanbanzuke with the same style marinade that we had just made at home two nights earlier! They used chicken instead of smelt and it was a great start. I didn’t really catch the names of all the other dishes that were served but they included a tasty tofu dish with quail egg; scallions and I think sriracha sauce; cuttlefish with fried garlic and garlic scapes; mackerel with miso paste; octopus and tuna sashimi; fried chicken gizzards and shrimp tempura over, I think, soba noodles (I’ll get the proper names for you in the future).

Watching the chefs working with great skill and efficiency of motion in their small kitchen, I noticed that the pots and pans were quite small and realized that most of what was being prepared was pretty much made toyasu at kitchen hanzo
order in small or individual batches. I also noticed that the chef looked very familiar. I knew him from somewhere, probably sold fish to him in some Ann Arbor restaurant years ago. After an evening of gorgeous and tasty dishes, I walked up to the counter. The chef and I looked at each other and he yelled, “Monahan”! It was Yasu. Yasu actually worked for a short time at our market when he first arrived from Japan! We laughed at our both temporarily forgetting about each other (it had been 15 or 20 years). We took photos then thanked him for the delicious adventure.

Why not take a little trip to the Izakaya in your own kitchen? There is lots of great Japanese pub grub that you can prepare at home. Our recipe today is based on a simmered whole flounder dish taken from “Izakaya the Japanese Pub Cookbook” by Mark Robinson. There are many interesting recipes in this book. We tried the simmered flounder Edo style because we get the nicest whole Georges Bank flounder every week and we’re always looking for new ways to prepare them. They are also great fish to share. My wife and I picked away from the same plate and devoured every last morsel!

Monahan's Seafood

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