Izakaya, a small East Village Japanese restaurant with an SEO-unfriendly name, is about to close and reopen with a new chef. Owner Yudai Kanayama, who used to work in fashion, opened the restaurant over a year ago, and the restaurant has since garnered attention for its chicken nanban, a version of fried chicken with sweet vinegar and tartar sauce. It's been packed since Ligaya Mishan's favorable review this year, which sang the praises of chef Dai Watanabe.
But Watanabe is heading back to Japan, and new chef Tomomi Nagasaka will be taking his place this coming spring, Kanayama says. The restaurant will stay open until February, when it will close so Nagasaka and the team can create a new menu and renovate the space. "She cooks really homestyle, mom's cooking," Kanayama says. "If you go to Japan and go to a home, a mom will cook some nice delicious food like this. That's what we thought we needed in the restaurant."
Some of the more popular items on the current menu will remain, but it's still unclear which ones. Nagasaka designed the lunch menu that the restaurant ran for a couple months. Besides classic Japanese homestyle dishes, expect more vegetarian dishes, like a Japanese guacamole with seaweed and soy sauce, or Japanese hamburg steak made with tofu. "It’s still going to be izakaya," Kanayama says. "It’s just going to be a little bit different."