WASHINGTON -- The wait is finally over. A little over a month after Japanese ramen shop Daikaya opened its doors, its upstairs izakaya opened Thursday night.
Now Daikaya's izakaya plans to bring conventional Japanese drinking culture to Penn Quarter.
Accessible via a side door on 6th Street, the 90-seat establishment gives Japanese elements a modern twist in both decor and menu. Designed by Brian Miller of Edit Lab at Streetsense, the interior is adorned with colorful Japanese fabrics and manga images; each light fixture is unique to give a different dining experience on every visit.
In Japan, an izakaya hangs a lantern outside to let customers know it's open; at Daikaya's izakaya, "the building itself is the lantern," says Miller, adding, "We want this to be a neighborhood hangout."
At the bar, patrons can choose among beer, wine, Japanese whisky, shochu, sake and craft cocktails. Inspired by the unconventional dirty martini executive chef Katsuya Fukushima made famous at minibar, the sake bomb here employs molecular gastronomy to create a one-of-a-kind beverage.
Food, ranging from $3 to $15, comes out on small plates and is meant to be ordered throughout the evening. "Don't construct a meal from the very beginning," warns partner Daisuke Utagawa. Instead, allow the meal to unfold naturally. Highlights from the menu include grilled oysters with housemade oyster salt and sake, grilled avocado with ponzu and fresh wasabi, and abura-miso rice balls using Fukushima's mother's recipe from Miyako, Japan.
A Western update to chawanmushi adds shitake mushrooms and Parmesan, while, in a nod to D.C.'s proximity to the Eastern shore, crab croquettes come seasoned with Old Bay.
"We want to make our own izakaya," says Utagawa. "A simple transport [from Japan] wouldn't work."
Take a peek inside: