Izakaya are an integral part of the Japanese dining scene. They are a casual dining spot designed for groups of people who want to drink, eat and have a good time. The word itself consists of the kanji 居酒屋 which essentially translate in english to “stay and enjoy Sake”. It is not uncommon for restaurants throughout Japan not to serve alcohol, so izakaya provides the perfect place for adults to socialise while quenching their thirst and hunger. The Niseko.com team decided it was time for a few beverages paired with some delicious tavern-style food, so we headed down to lower Hirafu to see our friends at YUI Niseko – the public izakaya.
As we arrived, we were promptly ushered to our table and before the last person could sit down “Yotsu beeru onegaishimasu”, or “four beers please”! The beers arrived as we perused the extensive menu with a seemingly endless amount of gastronomic options. Another differentiating factor behind izakaya is how the food is ordered and delivered. Rather than each person requesting a meal for themselves, you order a few plates that appeal to the group, when those are finished you order more, and so on. This contributes to the sharing and socialising aspect as well as being able to try several dishes. When the food is as good as it is at YUI, you definitely want to try as much as possible. The first plate we ordered came in the form of a question, “O-susume wa”, or “what’s your recommendation?”. When going to an izakaya for the first time, this is suggested as they may have a specialty dish that would otherwise be unknown to you.
The first dish that came out did not disappoint, a plate with a range of tsukune (grilled meatballs), yakitori (grilled pork skewers) and yakiton (grilled chicken skewers). Each very tasty, although yakitori would have to be one of my favourite foods in Japan, it is simply salted pork belly pieces skewered and flame-grilled, my first “oishii” yelled for the night (delicious)! The next two dishes came out together and contrasted each other very nicely; deep-fried cheese rings and a tofu salad. The salad helped minimise the self-guilt of the fried cheese. You can never go wrong with deep-fried cheese, and the salad with its sesame dressing paired with marinated tofu, we were three from three. The next two dishes are a must-have for any table at any izakaya; prawn tempura and chicken karaage. Anyone who has visited either Japan or a Japanese restaurant has most likely indulged in these deep-fried delights. These icons should always make an appearance at an izakaya. By this stage, we were slowly filling up, but the menu presented far too many appealing items to stop. Su-mi-maaa-seennnnn (excuse me)! The final dishes were a tower of onion rings and something that tempted us far too much not to order, pork belly tacos. It proved to be an excellent decision. BBQ marinated pork belly with a fragrant salad wrapped up in a soft tortilla. Dessert was unnecessary after that; it was the perfect closer. Maybe one more beeru.
Our experience at YUI was a perfect representation of what izakaya dining is all about. Sharing delicious food, laughs and groans of culinary pleasure with friends. If you’re visiting the area and want an authentic Japanese ‘pub-style’ dinner at a very affordable price, then please make your way down to YUI Niseko Izakaya as soon as you can. Check out their Facebook for all the latest drink and food specials. Arigato gozaimasu YUI!