One of the best ways to experience the bounty of Japanese cuisine is at an izakaya, a Japanese-style tapas pub. Izakayas serve small plates to be shared at the table while you sip on sake or shochu. My favorite izakaya in New York is Izakaya Ten in Chelsea. In addition to serving scrumptious yakitori, vegetable dishes, and fried foods, Izakaya Ten has a beautiful space in which to savor your meal.
If you’re new to the izakaya concept, the website Kampai! recently posted a guide called “How to Izakaya.”
Eating at an izakaya can be an intimidating experience. Even when the waitress speaks good English the menu can be overwhelming. Some places make it easy on you by having a short menu, but most have extensive menus with specials pages as long as many menus in Western restaurants. Asking for suggestions is not always helpful since Japanese waitstaff expect Westerners to want what other Westerners have enjoyed. Usually this amounts to yakisoba or kara age (fried chicken). They’re delicious dishes, but if you eat those two things every time you go to an izakaya you’re missing out on a plethora of extremely interesting dining options.
Read the entire informative guide here, and then go out and find an izakaya!