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Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Izakaya Yuzuki Takes Its Cooking Back to the Base

Posted By on Wed, Jan 25, 2012 at 9:30 AM

The braised pork belly from Izakaya Yuzuki. - LARA HATA
  • Lara Hata
  • The braised pork belly from Izakaya Yuzuki.

We are in the era of chocolate makers who import their cacao beans via sailing ship, bartenders making tonic water from cinchona bark, and brewers using leftover bread yeast to make beer. The closer you take your cooking back to the root, the more heartfelt it comes across.

That's the approach taken by Takashi Saito, chef of the new Izakaya Yuzuki -- the subject of the Weekly's full-length review this week. Saito's lovely, thoughtful dishes include pickles fermented in a bed of cultured rice bran, salt flavored with koji (a mold he's culturing in house), and freshly curdled tofu. Dude's even making his own miso. For all the traditions Saito is adhering to, his cooking comes across as of this moment.

When it comes to the dining experience, the restaurant, located in a cursed space on 18th and Guerrero, still has some things to work out. Though service is wonderful, it's not really a proper izakaya, either in its mood or its prices, and the attempt to retain some of the characteristics of a Japanese pub contrasts with the intimate, homey-refined food. But Saito's making food few restaurants in town are capable of, and it's worth waiting out the quirks and inconsistencies to see how his food will keep evolving.

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Jonathan Kauffman


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