Delight in serious drinks and creative, Japanese-inspired fare at the funky, casual Izakaya restaurant and bar in Midtown.
Known as Japanese gathering places, the Izakaya is essentially the Japanese version of a tapas bar, where small plates are shared alongside a variety of drinks resulting in a fun and laid-back lunch, dinner, and Sunday brunch experience.
Located in the heart of Midtown at the intersection of Bagby and Gray Street, Izakaya hits all the high points with an international take on Japanese-inspired cuisine including some serious ramen and poke, a clever bar program, and colorful mural décor via the talents of local graffiti artist, Catfish Perez.
In the Chef’s Own Words
Says Chef Jean Philippe Gaston, “The idea was to keep the tradition of Japan and the beautiful work ethic in their kitchens but to add a little fun to it.”
“We wanted to create a place to relax, where people would have a good time.”
“We maintain the high-end quality we have at our other Azuma Group restaurants but do it in a way that isn’t too stuffy and with an emphasis on street food, which is the common denominator all over the world for comfort food that brings everyone together.”
Known for his skilled creation of long-simmered stocks for ramen, Gaston has developed six ramen recipes for the delicious dinner menu.
Check out his fantastic version of the traditional “Tonkotsu”, which features a rich pork stock base, roasted pork, Fukujinzuke (Japanese pickles), green onions, bean sprouts, Wakame, a 62-degree egg and sesame seeds, served with thin noodles.
Looking for a little fusion fun? Try the crafty “Menudo” ramen, created with a Mexican-inspired spicy menudo broth, fresh cilantro, onions, avocado, radishes, and a 62-degree egg served with Sapporo style noodles.
Both ramens are also available at lunch and, like several other ramen dishes, can be ordered “spicy” and with optional add-ons like roasted corn, tofu or shrimp.
Poke & Beyond
Long before Poke joints were popping up all over town, Gaston was serving up eight stellar forms of traditional and innovative poke dishes including varieties for spicy salmon, tuna, traditional Hawaiian Poke Bowl, scallops and more.
Looking for something different? Try any of the seven super-creative raw seafood dishes (all gluten-free) like the Thai Snapper with sashimi, tamarind, and coconut sauce served with fresh basil, Thai chiles, and roasted nuts.
On the vast menu, you’ll also find mushroom mac and cheese (made with seasonal mushrooms and cheese from Houston Dairymaids), the savory Izakaya Fries, whole grilled Squid, and even a cowboy-cut rib eye served with pickled onion and jalapeno slaw.
Remember, it’s all about sharing.
Not the Usual Brunch
Weary of the same old brunch menu? How about “The Japanese French Guy” – an ode to Gaston’s heritage which is a “pork katsu croc monsieur”.
Gaston’s version of the classic croque monsieur comes smothered in a rich Japanese curry and tofu gravy that you just have to try.
For a down home feel, try the “Karaage” fried chicken and waffle served with spicy Steen’s cane syrup or any one of the many egg dishes and open-faced “tartine” sandwiches.
The bar menu boasts the city’s largest selection of shochu, the trendy Japanese distilled spirit that first began in the southern region of Japan around the 15th century, one of the largest selections of top-quality Japanese and Taiwanese whiskeys, and more than three dozen sake offerings.
There’s an extensive cocktail menu so it would be very easy to get lost trying to make a choice. We recommend you try creative options like the “Dream Girl” made with Blanco Tequila, grapefruit soda, and Shiso or the “Kiichigo”, made with lemongrass shochu, raspberry liqueur, and Vouvray.
- Chef: Jean Philippe Gaston
- Address: 318 Gray St, Houston, TX 77002
- Hours: Monday to Wednesday Lunch 11am to 3pm and Dinner 5pm to 11pm; Thursday and Friday Lunch 11am to 3pm and Dinner 5pm to midnight; Saturday noon to 2am; Sunday noon to 11pm.
- Reservations: Click here for more information or to make reservations online.