Izakaya: The Japanese Pub Cookbook

October 11, 2010 · Posted in Bestselling Cooking Books 

Product Description
Japanese pubs, called izakaya, are attracting growing attention in Japan and overseas. As a matter of fact, a recent article in The New York Times claimed that the izakaya is starting to shove the sushi bar off its pedestal. While Japan has many guidebooks and cookbooks, this is the first publication in English to delve into every aspect of a unique and vital cornerstone of Japanese food culture.
A venue for socializing and an increasingly innovative culinary i… More >>

Izakaya: The Japanese Pub Cookbook

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5 Responses to “Izakaya: The Japanese Pub Cookbook”

  1. Zack Davisson on October 11th, 2010 4:46 am

    Some of my favorite memories of Japan are from cooking in an izakaya. I apprenticed under the local master, learning traditional izakaya cooking and bringing some of my Northwest sensibilities to the menu. It was a fantastic experience, and I often wish I was there still, standing behind the charcoal grill, taking orders and cooking directly for the customer, reaching inside the tanks to pull out a live octopus and quickly dice it up and serve it raw and wriggling. Good times. There really is no restaurant I love more than an izakaya, and no matter how many trendy American restaurants like to put that on their website they never get it right.

    There should be a hundred more cookbooks like “Izakaya: The Japanese Pub Cookbook”. This is the real stuff, what Japanese cooking really is, not intricately rolled sushi or fancy designs on square plates. Delicious, cheap food served up fresh and fast, with a menu changing by the hour depending on what ingredients are available, often hand written by the master and pasted on the walls.

    Mark Robinson shares my love for izakayas, and has put together a brilliant cookbook and guide based on some fabulous establishments. Along with the recipes, there are short essays on izakaya culture, their history and what they mean to the Japanese people. It is a splendid ritual, the ordering of drinks and paired food, the requesting of today’s specialties, the casual atmosphere of an ongoing party where anyone can feel free to jump into conversation with anyone else.

    I cooked at an izakaya in Osaka, whereas Robinson calls Tokyo his stomping grounds, so a lot of these recipes are unfamiliar to me, but they are all 100% authentic and delicious. There are some standard menu items, like the grilled whole surume squid and sweet miso-marinated fish, and some more exotic items like fried whole garlic with miso and “motsu” beef intestine stew. All the recipes are accompanied by beautiful photographs that will keep you reaching for this cookbook over and over again.

    Because of its authenticity, these recipes are not going to be easy to someone without access to a good Japanese grocer. The “Asian” section at your local supermarket probably isn’t going to cut it, especially with the seafood and produce required. It is worth the effort to track down the ingredients rather than substituting, because that is where the real flavor comes in, but I have had to cut a few corners here and there.

    Anyone who is interested in authentic Japanese cooking and doesn’t have a copy of “Izakaya: The Japanese Pub Cookbook” in their library isn’t cooking the whole spectrum. Aside from a plane ticket to Japan, this is as real as it gets.
    Rating: 5 / 5

  2. Sung on October 11th, 2010 5:42 am

    Having recently returned from a tour of Japan, I can say without reservation that this is a very authentic Izakaya cookbook. The recipes are well written, straight forward and uncomplicated. I have tried several and all are delicious and fun. I took off one star because the use of a bigger typeface would have been a good idea. Be sure and try the corn kakiage!
    Rating: 4 / 5

  3. Mark Manguerra on October 11th, 2010 8:31 am

    The book features eight different izakayas, each with its own section that begins with an essay that reads very much like a newspaper write-up: Robinson may describe the experience walking in the pub, the reputation of the pub, a brief history of the pub and the chef, the chef’s philosophy about food and drink, the flow of the kitchen, and descriptions of the food, followed by about 9 recipes from the izakaya itself, written by the chef and each accompanied by a full-color photograph.

    The dust jacket front flap says that Izakaya is the first publication in English to delve into every aspect of the izakaya, a unique and vital cornerstone of Japanese food culture. However, after reading the book, a second book would have difficulty providing insight additional to Robinson’s- he paints such a vivid picture that the only way to better get an idea of what the izakaya experience is like is probably to go to one. From the physical description of the pub, to the demeanor of the chefs, and even the kind of company one can expect in each izakaya, Robinson captures all the details. Robinson chose the eight izakayas featured for their quality, ambience, and variety, and the unique charms of each izakaya shines through in the text.

    The recipes are for the most part no-fuss recipes (no need to train for decades) with few ingredients, but the emphasis is on quality and creativity. The range from the familiar (sweet corn kakiage tempura, soy-flavored spare ribs, simmered kamo eggplant with pork loin, sliced duck breast with ponzu sauce, fried udon, summer scallop salad) to more exotic offerings (scrambled eggs with sea urchin, “motsu” beef intestine stew, shark fin aspic). There is inspiration to be found here not only for those who wish to travel in Japan or set up a pub of their own, but also for those who are adventurous enough to try a different kind of entertaining at home. The shots of the food (taken by one of my favorites, Masashi Kuma) and the izakayas are warm and inviting, and represent the izakaya culture remarkably.

    The book delivers on its promise to provide a peek into this Japanese dining experience, but anyone interested in Japanese cuisine or culture in general would enjoy reading Izakaya.
    Rating: 5 / 5

  4. Christopher W. Thompson on October 11th, 2010 10:50 am

    I rarely buy a book without reading a review first, but this was an exeption. The need for a book like this was long overdue. Beautiful photos, competent procedure, and a savage reference to the everyday Japanese dining experience. Oh and the recipes are not too easy as to insult a practicing chef or too hard as to send the home chef across town on a wild goose chase for some never heard of ingredient. Worth your time.
    Rating: 4 / 5

  5. Jackal on October 11th, 2010 12:01 pm

    I think it is most appropriate to consider this book as a guidebook to the izakaya style of Japanese food. It gives you lots of information of how to behave and what kind of dishes to order in an izakaya.

    The book also has some recipes. This being pub food it is quite easy to make and naturally tasty.

    I would recommend the book to anyone interested in Japanese food.
    Rating: 4 / 5

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