Dining Review: Nimble Shared Plates And Silky Sake At Yami-Ichi Izakaya
One of the great pleasures of eating in Japan is having the opportunity to watch a seasoned chef create soba noodles from scratch. The process is hypnotic, ritualistic, and ensconced in rich history.
Such are the detailed dishes served at Yami-Ichi Noodle Izakaya (206 Garfield Place near 7th Avenue), a Japanese “gastropub” which had its soft opening back in March. The restaurant serves tapas-style plates and boasts a broad selection of sake, Japanese beer, and whiskies.
While there are many types of Japanese restaurants, spanning form the relatively common sushi and sashimi establishments, to yakitoris and steakhouses, the izakaya focuses on “Japanese pub” food, and are rather common in Japan. However, Yami-Ichi feels more high-brow than what the term “pub” means to us — the dishes are nimble, customized, and curated.
The restaurant’s design is rich in various wood shades, and features an outdoor dining space as well. And while there is a crisp, contemporary feel to the place, the culinary experience dates back to the 1950s.
At the end of World War II, Japan began re-building its economy through “black market” trade, or “Yami-Ichi.” Chef Yoshi Haramoto began making soba and udon in his mother’s Tokyo restaurant roughly 40 years ago. The approach to this new neighborhood addition grew out of the traditional family dishes.
As particular as the dishes may be, the menu is expansive, providing a rather large vocabulary for Haramoto to work with.
Otsumami (appetizers) feature Hiyayakko (cold tofu with bonito flakes and scallion), shishito peppers, and Tsukemono (Japanese pickles).
The seafood selections are diverse, including Tako Wasabi (raw octopus in wasabi sauce), Ika Gesso (grilled calamari in ginger sauce), and Shime-Saba (marinated mackerel).
In addition to a selection of soba and udon, there is a curated menu of sushi and sashimi.
The Hiyayakko ($7) is subtle, soft, and pleasing — serving as a wonderful counterpoint to the Shishito Peppers ($8). While there isn’t a “shishito pepper science” which I’ve come across, I usually expect one super spicy pepper per order. I’d say four out of ten were deliciously spicy, complimented by the sea salt.
Ordering at Yami-Ichi may be new territory for some. Never fear — the staff will help you select a combination of dishes — because it’s all about sharing at this establishment.
Other highlights include the excellent Gindara, a grilled marinated black cod (a bit steep at $17) and the Tako-su, a sliced octopus ($8) which is subtly sweetened with vinegar.
The sake selection may also be a bit overwhelming, but once again, let the staff help you out if you’re a newbie. The chilled “Drunken Whale” Suigei sake ($11 for 6 oz.) comes from Kuchi, Japan, and is extremely clean and silky. This sake is known to complement a variety of different meals, so it’s an excellent place to start.
We had our 2-year-old son with us, who enjoyed the little tray with utensils the staff gave to him. It kept him rather busy as he feasted on edamame and rice.
The menu is far too expansive to review all the selections. (Well, I suppose I could have invited all of our readers). But from the cross-section of dishes we sampled, Yami-Ichi serves an array of thoughtful dishes.
Keep in mind these are small dishes, unlike the mass quantities of sushi or tempura that are served elsewhere. This establishment is subtle, nimble, and certainly a welcomed addition to the neighborhood.
The Dining Rundown: Yami-Ichi Noodle Izakaya
Where: 206 Garfield Place (near 7th Avenue)
Hours: Mondays-Fridays, 5pm-10:30pm; Saturdays and Sundays, 12:00pm-2:30 and 5pm-10:30pm. Happy Hour takes place Mondays-Fridays from 5pm-7pm and 9pm-10pm. $4 Japanese beers and $4 small bites are available.
Kid Friendly? Yes, they’ll be just fine. Highchairs available for toddlers.
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