Ittan Izakaya

Special thanks to Ittan Izakaya for extending this event invitation.

In Japan, an izakaya (居酒屋) is a place where people usually go to relax and mingle around after work. Besides alcoholic beverages, an izakaya also serves fresh seafood to go with booze. Ittan Izakaya (一炭居酒屋) is the first such establishment of its kind in Malaysia.
Located in the middle of the vibrant Icon City, Ittan Izakaya is managed by the same company as Shunka (旬香). The eatery has been operating for a month, but today marks its official launching ceremony.
Despite competing with more than 20 restaurants in this half-kilometer stretch of "Las Vegas Strip", Ittan Izakaya is instantly recognizable by the iconic Japanese-style murals on its exterior walls.
Stepping inside the eatery, one immediately feels the casual, laid-back ambience through the restaurant's wooden furnishing. Bar-like stools allow lone customers to break the ice between each other.
Upon closer observation, I notice that the wooden chairs here also allow customers to place their belongings. As one of the most urbanized country in the world, Japan is renowned for innovate ways to save space.
In addition, the restaurants features maritime theme similar to a seaside eatery. This is meant to emphasize the restaurant's commitment to fresh seafood.
All kinds of seafood at Ittan Izakaya are imported from Japan. The best source of fresh seafood is Tsukiji Market (築地市場) in Tokyo. As the largest fish market in the world, agents of prestigious restaurants all over Japan congregate here every morning to bid for the finest fish that the marine kingdom has to offer.
Going an extra mile to provide the freshest dining experience, Ittan Izakaya procures even live seafood for its kitchen. Air-flown from Japan, seafood selections include scallops, oysters, sea urchins and other exotic ones.
At this restaurant, sea creatures are as enormous as they are fresh! Just marvel how difficult it is to transport these marine denizens in a 7-hour flight from Japan.
Dining experience at Ittan Izakaya is centered on 4 concepts: grilled seafood (炉端焼き), kushiyaki (串焼き), sashimi (刺身) and wine (酒). Since seafood is its main focus, the restaurant is entirely pork-free.
The food menu consists of several exotic ingredients that are rarely offered by other Japanese restaurants in Penang. One example is Crab Miso With Egg Yolk Bowl Rice (蟹みそと卵かけご飯, RM25.00), which is a specialty from Hokkaido (北海道). At the center stage of this dish is a spoonful of savory paste of greenish hue, made from leftover organs of a crab after white meat has been removed. Contrary to popular misconception, the paste is not made solely from crab brains, which is actually very small in size.
Another special dish is Clam Miso Soup (貝赤だし味噌汁, RM10.00) which is made from black miso paste. This type of miso paste is darker in color due to longer fermentation process.
The soup contains five clams and generous amount of kombu (昆布) seaweed. I appreciate the fact that the soup is served extremely hot, which is ideal in order to enjoy miso soup in miniscule sips.
If you have lots of time to spare, Ittan Izakaya has an extensive grilled seafood menu. Cooked using charcoal, customers can choose to handle their own cooking, or request assistance from the staff.
One of the recommended seafood choices is Ittan Crab Miso (蟹味噌甲羅焼, RM26.50). Crab essence is presented on its carapace, which is then slowly heated until it becomes cooked. The green substance is very intense in flavor if eaten directly, therefore it serves as the ideal companion with Japanese wine.
I also enjoy the Butter Grill Squid (烏賊バター焼き, RM24.40). The buttery dressing allows the squid to cook more evenly.
At one point, the squid is cut into rings and returned to the grill. Once cooked, the squid rings are tender with every bite. Like other grilled seafood, this dish is best paired with alcoholic drinks.
As for desserts, Pure Matcha (生抹茶チョコ, RM12.40) is served chilled and comes in three cylindrical blocks. These blocks of genuine matcha powder carry mild bitterness which you can expect from tea leaves. Alternatively, Pure Chocolate (生チョコ) is also available.
In the wine department, the menu offers a respectable variety of sake (酒), shochu (焼酎) and beer (ビール). Tonight's launching is officiated by breaking the lid of a sake barrel.
As Chinese New Year is around the corner, there is also lion dance performance to bless tonight's event.
Given the interesting menu that Ittan Izakaya has to offer, I am already looking forward to my next visit!

Name: Ittan Izakaya (一炭居酒屋)
Address: 43, Jalan Icon City, 14000 Bukit Mertajam, Pulau Pinang
Contact: 04-502-6649
Business hours: 4:00pm-1:00am (Sunday-Thursday), 4:00pm-2:00am (Friday-Saturday)
Coordinates: 5.34339 N, 100.43357 E
Directions: From the North-South Expressway, take the Bukit Mertajam exit and head east. Turn left at the next traffic lights. Turn left into Icon City on the left, using Starbucks Coffee as a landmark. Ittan Izakaya is located on the right side of the road, approximately midway down this half-kilometer avenue. There are ample parking spaces in front of the restaurant.

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