Izayaka is the Japanese word for an informal drinking establishment. However, the food plays an important role at Izayakas. Unlike traditional British pubs, where it’s either a packet of crisps or a roast dinner and nothing in between; Yumi Izayaka offers a mouth-watering list of small sharing dishes and skewers from their fiery robata grill.
Yumi has been shrewdly designed with an open frontage, whereby there are no doors to discourage you from strolling inside. The first section is their bar and robata grill, where you can sit on bench tops and observe the sizzling action. The main dining and drinking tables are at the back away from the noise of Shaftesbury Avenue.
The food menu isn’t the most extensive here, but it’s that type of menu where you are tempted to order every single dish. I would recommend beginning your Japanese odyssey with edamame beans, as they always go supremely well with alcohol especially beers and Yumi has one of the most celebrated beer brands in the world with Hitachino.
Their small sharing dishes are expertly judged in terms of taste using popular Japanese ingredients. The aubergine is gently braised with sake, mirin and soy; the alcohol accentuating the fresh flavours from the aubergine. For mushroom aficionados, their warm mushroom salad is a must order with enoki, shimeji and shiitake mushrooms marinated with soy dressing with a hint of vinegar.
Their skewer dish choices aren’t plentiful, mostly chicken and some bacon dishes, but the limited options are more than made up for by the sheer quality of the skewers. The chicken thigh are gently grilled, tender and moist and made addictive tasting by tare sauce and spring onions. The meatball skewer is equally irresistible and the sauce has the addition of a raw egg yolk. The only weaker link was the chicken skins, which was quite bony and the meat was comparatively less tender.
If you are looking for more filling dishes, okonomiyaki Osaka style might be the dish to try. It is often compared to a Japanese pizza or savoury pancake. The base might be slight denser than traditional okonomiyaki but the taste is as traditional as if you had the dish in Osaka. The pancetta and okonomiyaki sauce is a taste of delectable indulgence, the bonito flakes wave around on top as an invitation to eat the dish promptly.
As they don’t offer desserts here, I would recommend trying their delicious yuzu sake to leave a clean, sweet taste in your mouth. If you want something more unusual, try their dreamy cloud sake which is unfiltered and has a complex aroma, where you can taste the rice, red plums and the slightly fruity flavours in the long finish.
Embrace the open-door policy of Yumi Izayaka and take some friends along to enjoy some skewers, small sharing dishes and thirst-quenching beer and sake.