Warming Up in a Seafood Izakaya in Ichibancho
After strolling through the Sendai Pageant of Starlight on a recent evening, we were freezing. A stiff breeze made the clear night feel even colder. And while we had Melon Pan treats only about an hour earlier, we were hungry as well. Since we were right around the corner from Ichibancho Sunmall, we decided to head to a seafood izakaya we wanted to try for a while now.
A Place for Comfort Food
Izakayas are common in every part of Japan. And you can find them in almost every part of a town or neighborhood. We love izakayas and have many favorites in Sendai and even Tokyo. Izakayas are restaurants that serve Japanese comfort food. They are not fancy; if you are looking for elegant surroundings and crisp white table linens, you are in the wrong place. Instead, Izakayas are places where you go to grab a meal and a few drinks with your friends or co-workers. Most are lively and noisy, which adds to the atmosphere. One setback is that in Japan, many izakayas allow smoking, which may irritate you. We are still getting used to this.
A Seafood Izakaya in Ichibancho
Izakayas come in many different varieties. While many do serve Ramen, another one of our favorites, some are specializing in a particular dish. We know a few great Yakitori izakayas in Sendai. But we had never tried this seafood izakaya in Ichibancho. We walked by many times and always wanted to give it a try. This evening seemed the perfect opportunity.
When we arrived shortly after 6 pm on a Friday night, the place was packed. Not only was it Friday night, but the holiday season. And this seafood izakaya had many reservations for Bonenkai or holiday parties. We did not. Without a reservation, the best they could do was a tiny table right by the front door. Maybe not the most desirable option, but we were cold and hungry. And there was a big gas heater right next to our table.
Grilling at the Table
Like many izakayas, this seafood izakaya had a few seafood sets or assorted seafood as a single menu item. This arrangement is prevalent in Japan; many restaurants and cafes have sets. While the sets looked appealing, we decided to go a la carte. Since we had never tried this seafood izakaya, we wanted to see what the food was like first.
We started with a few items to grill ourselves, including shrimp, squid with mushrooms, and crab guts. Yes, I know, that last part will freak out some of you, but it is delicious! In short order, we received the raw ingredients and a little gas stove. We placed the fresh seafood, and the crab shell, on the grill, and enjoyed our egg omelet with daikon, and our pickled celery in the meantime.
Soon a delicious smell originated from our tabletop grill, so we had to start paying attention. The squid and mushrooms were in a tinfoil pouch, so we just let them heat. But the shrimp skewers needed frequent flipping. And we were instructed to stir the crab guts frequently to make sure they cooked evenly. We must have done it right because everything tasted delicious.
Seafood Izakaya Specialties
We were still hungry, so we asked our waitress for some recommendations. This seafood izakaya is well known for the freshness and quality of their seafood. Much of it actually comes from a big seawater tank right by the front door. We ordered some tuna sashimi and some seared saba. The latter was seared right at our table, so soon, the smell of the gas flames hitting the raw mackerel filled our table.
Seafood is best when it is really fresh. And in Sendai, we are fortunate. Especially in the winter, when the ocean water is extra cold, we have an abundance of delicious fresh seafood. Much of it comes from the Shiogama Seafood Wholesale Market, which means it was caught that morning. And everything served in this seafood izakaya is from local waters, and we could definitely taste that.
We had a great time in this seafood izakaya. It was fun to see all the other diners enjoying their meal. And it gave us some ideas of what to order the next time. After finishing our delicious meal, and one last sake for Coco, we happily set out for home.
As we walked home, we heard the sound of a Yaki Imo whistle. The hot sweet potato made for a tasty dessert on the way home. We call that a successful evening. And we will definitely revisit this seafood izakaya. Stay tuned!
If you would like to visit a seafood izakaya with us or want a personal guide to Discover Sendai, please feel free to contact us for rates and availability.