In Japan, the word izakayas is a pub where everyone meets to socialize and eat .Chef Michael Schulson fell in love with izakayas while studying in Japan then brought back the idea of a Japanese pub where art would meet food. The layout of Izakaya in the Borgata includes a sake bar, and two areas of dining. It is a restaurant lit to create intimate dining yet there is also a sense of community. The restaurant came in at a 95 decibel level which means it is a bit loud. Being loud is not a drawback. It is the enjoyment of the diners that creates the uproarious sounds.
Dinner started with what would be called appetizers but on the Izakaya menu it states small. What is so great about the menu at Izakaya is that there are so many smaller dishes that as a group you can get a taste of so many different dishes. In a party of 4, there were orders for the Kale and Calamari, which was divine, edamame dumplings, short ribs rice balls and Gulf Shrimp Ceviche, and the main lobster. To say the calamari dish is a remarkable delicious dish is such an understatement. Adjectives can’t do the dish justice. The dish is served with cashews and apples ginger dressing which enhances the delicate calamari that has the lightest breading that it really shouldn’t be called breading. The pieces of the calamari are not as in other restaurants large rings. No, they are small poofs of calamari that just dance on your taste buds. The other apps were a cut above what you find in other restaurants and one that stood out in addition to the calamari was the short rib rice balls. Crispy on the outside, soft and dense on the inside, and short rib meat in the center is tasty surprise.
Service at the Izakaya was unbelievable. It seemed that our server could read our minds as he was so quick to refill drink orders, clearing dishes and of course the speed of kitchen sending out the dinner orders was amazing. Our only drawback was minor and it wasn’t with our server at all. The hostess who seats the guests seemed to be having a really bad night. No smile and not a sign of courtesy was seen patrons this particular night. It was busy at the restaurant as any Friday night would be but there was something amiss with the hostess. It didn’t affect the right of the evening though.
Main courses ordered were the angry lobster and the shrimp tempura. The other orders were also dishes we could share among ourselves and they were Kobe beef fried rice, spicy tuna roll and a shrimp tataki soy and scallion sushi roll. The angry lobster was beautifully prepared and the seasonings used (Miso Butter, Yuzu, Sichimi Spice) created a delicate taste that did not overpower the sweetness of the lobster. The Kobe beef fried rice as a bit of a disappointment only because it was just average. The spicy tuna roll though made up for the blandness of the rice dish as the tuna roll was delicious.
Michael Schulson is the acclaimed chef who oversees the Izayaka. Schulson studied and live in Japan before opening the Izakaya in 2007. Since then Shulson has overseen the opening of his second restaurant, Sampan, in 2009, in Philadelphia. The Sampan restaurant has been called by Bon Appetit’s magazine the “Top Six Places to Taste Asian Fusion.” Esquire magazine in 2010 named Shulson one of the chefs to watch. With the wonderful food that was experienced on a recent visit, Shulson is most heartily one to watch.