An Izakaya in H-Town!
These Japanese bars aka Izakayas are every where in the USA, however finding the authentic one out of them is a herculean task.
Don't you worry, guys!
I do the dirty work (yummy) for you by researching the nitty-gritty details of the places. And, voila!
Izakaya Wa. This restaurant situated in Memorial, Houston is a well known hub for all age groups who love some authentic Japanese tapas to go along with some Sake. Aye, love me some sake!
Reached around 8PM on a Saturday night and the parking lot was completely packed even though it was huge in area. Luckily, got a spot after patrolling for 5 minutes. And much to my envision, I was told to wait for 30 minutes or more to get a table inside the restaurant. (Yeah, they have a patio too!)
The interior was adorned with Japanese art and furniture designed to resemble an authentic Izakaya and I wouldn't miss that ambience for a patio on a humid day.
Got in eventually and ordered some chilled Sake straightaway. Yeah, you heard it right - Chilled!
It was REI Junmai Ginjo Draft. Though high in ABV, it was surprisingly quite soft and smooth. But $17 for that bottle is not something I would recommend. Stick to the beer on tap. Safe!
The menu was elaborate and neatly specified. All the dishes being smaller in size, I went ahead and ordered some of the chef recommendations and also a seasonal special without any further ado.
The first order was out in a jiffy.
It was Kaki Fry. Also known as, Panko Fried Oysters. Served with Iceberg Lettuce dipped in ginger soy, wasabi and a wedge of lemon, this dish led to a perfect start meant for an evening at a bar.
Also, you have few condiments at the table such as Tonkotsu sauce and Ichimi Togarashi, which is a must try! Period. The blend of those two condiments along with the fried oyster dipped in them, was a magical experience. The Oysters were very fresh and the Japanese Panko along with it just tasted right. The best part - It was not greasy!
Next up, can't wait..
It was the famed Menchi Katsu. Made with minced Kurobuta Pork aka Berkshire Pork, it is known for its juiciness and tenderness and is no exception here. A patty made out of the minced pork dipped in Japanese Panko and fried until a beautiful golden texture.
Served with same condiments as the previous dish. The sauce smeared on lettuce is remarkably exceptional as well. But, I used it to cleanse my palate and move along with my aforementioned two ingredient sauce in which I immersed this skewer into.
The best pork I have ever tasted. The spices were perfectly marinated into the meat and it was really juicy and was never greasy at any point. The taste was quite satisfying. I would return just for this dish. Not kidding!
For my third dish,
I got Hokkaido Croquette. A fried mashed potato it was. Rather simple, ain't it? Well, potato and brewski have always been a combination to die for. But what matters is how well this croquette was made which makes it distinct from its namesakes. The texture of the potato was not solid at any point. It was creamy and was melting at every bite. I am so in love with this Izakaya until now.
Woah, it's really turning out to be a spectacular evening.
For my fourth dish, I got Tsukune. It was ground chicken meat grilled to perfection and served with raw egg. I swirled the skewer into the egg and took a hearty bite. The chicken was slightly bland but pairing it with the egg and the sauces made it taste quite better. Perfectly cooked chicken fell a tad bit short on the spices.
Oi, I got my seasonal special.
It's Ebi Fry. A fried shrimp skewer served on a bed of potato slaw garnished with fresh parsley. Presented quite well but I couldn't resist myself and popped the popsicle into my mouth.
Aye, Aye, Aye!
The flavor of the shrimp accompanied with the freshly made slaw brought me back to my senses after the mediocre dish I had earlier. Crunchy, yet not overcooked, this shrimp is cooked to impress.
Not yet, I have one more appetizer left, guys!
The Ika Sugatayaki. A whole Japanese squid grilled and marinated in ginger soy and served alongside jalapeños. A traditional Japanese favorite. Sure as hell would give this a shot!
Loved the plate in which they served the squid. Picture perfect!
The char on the squid was quite appetizing and the tentacles were grilled until crisp. Overcooking the squid would result in a tough texture and cooking it lightly would make it chewy, so I was eager to check it out.
Took one of the ring along with the sauce and ginger soy and accompanied it with a jalapeño. Loved the flavor of the squid. The meat was so tender which will only be achieved when cooked at the optimum temperature. The tentacles never got the burnt taste which was the best part as the smoky texture with a crunch made life better. Spot on!
Pairing it with jalapeños just added the tang to this dish. Would definitely recommend for the experience.
Moving on to the authentic rice dishes,
It's Chicken Cutlet Curry Rice. A fried patty of minced chicken layered over steaming rice and the special aromatic curry, paired with pickled peppers. All of them were piping hot. The thick broth was the best part that happened to this dish. When eaten with the steaming hot rice, it induces a surreal experience. The chef was apprehensive of sharing what went into the curry which was understandable, as it turned out to be amazing!
It was spicy, sweet, aromatic, dense, acidic and all the good things I could imagine of. The fried chicken was so moist from the inside and anything fried at this place has hit the right chords. But the curry has been the protagonist throughout the meal. A must try, readers!
Luckily, the size of the dish I ordered was Half (Regular gets you the big one!), so I got to try the dish with another meat.
Yes, Menchi Katsu Curry Rice. The best part of the appetizer coupled with the best part of the rice dish is definitely going to create an extraordinary fusion and I knew it before I could pounce on.
Pork makes life better, but minced pork?
What about fried minced pork?
Not a surprise, ain't it guys? However, I loved the texture of the meat and pairing it with the hot rice and thick aromatic curry smeared over it made my life unimaginably supernatural. Oh ya, I feel like a super hero.
If you happen to be in Houston, then this Japanese place is a definite try. You'll leave happy for sure.
They bid you adieu with a sweet greeting as well.
Arigato Gozai Mashita!
This Izakaya has it all!
12665 Memorial Dr Houston, TX 77024
Value For Money: 8/10 (Stick to beer!)