Roku

Yue Weng Mak

Roku

By Alissa Merksamer

Owner Jay Hamada, who also operates the JapaCurry lunch truck, comes from Kyushu, the third largest island in Japan, and he injects the flavors of home into signature dishes like chicken nanbam, a third cousin of fish and chips. In it, creamy tarter sauce flecked with dill and chopped hardboiled egg tops tender dark meat chicken that’s been deep-fried and quickly swathed in sweet and sour nanban sauce. The tarter sauce reappears as one of two dipping options for kushi age, deep fried skewers of vegetables and meat. Of these, you must try the quail eggs. Crunch through a coating reminiscent of onion ring batter to the lush little hardboiled egg. Move from crispy to refreshing with nasu nibitashi. Here, fried eggplant bathes in a dashi broth until plump and supple, plated under fishy tousle of bonito flakes. When you finally come up for air (or a sip of shochu), two hours will have passed.

... on the side

eye for design
There’s no doubt this is a watering hole; a giant Sapporo keg flanks the entryway, and Sapporo posters cling to the wall. Everything else is made of dark wood—the walls, tables, and chairs—which give it an after-hours, underground vibe.

bottoms up
An izakaya is a pub, after all, and this one offers plenty of spirits. Go with one of several varieties of shochu, a Japanese liquor made from rice, wheat, or potato. If you’re an aficionado, try it “neat,” but if you want to have fun, go with one of the cocktails made with refreshing yuzu citrus, lychee, or green apple syrup. Beware: They’re dangerously drinkable.

carbo loading
In Japan, patrons always order a rice or noodle dish to soak up the booze before exiting an izakaya. Though ramen isn’t traditional, it’s the perfect sponge here. Hamada’s Kyushu-style ramen is served with minimal accompaniments so that you can focus on the tonkotsu (pork) broth, which cooks for twelve hours. Opt for the spicy version (there’s also regular or garlic), but don’t be intimidated by its fiery hue—it looks more stinging than it tastes.

decibels
Medium-low

hours

Tue–Sun 5:30 PM–10:30 PM
Closed Monday

price range

$3 (edamame) to $13 (seafood salad)
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