Gazing out a window facing Third St. near the Beverly Center, I watched various people walking by, while waiting for a friend to join me for lunch. A server inside The Izaka-Ya by Katsu-Ya, welcomed me and handed a packaged pre-moistened terry cotton towelette and two menus. Hungry patrons entered and took seats at the sushi bar and various tables.
An Izakaya in Japan is a popular sake spot. People come in and sip sake and other drinks while enjoying small-bites after work. Here in Los Angeles, The Izaka-Ya by Katsu-Ya is a neighborhood place where people flock for sushi, sashimi and other Japanese specialties.
This is one of five restaurants Katsuya Uechi owns in the Los Angeles area.
Born in Okinawa, Japan, he arrived to the U.S. in the mid 1980s and worked in a few restaurants. Then in 1997, Katsuya opened his first restaurant in Studio City. What made his restaurant a success, was that Chef Katsuya studied the eating habits of his American guests and mixed California-style into his traditional Japanese dishes.
The nautical theme décor included a ship’s rope spool which anchored as a host table in the small waiting area. The menu features a fair share of sunomomos (vegetables and salads seasoned with vinegar and soy sauce based dressings), soup, seafood, meat, rice and noodle dishes. On the backside are a variety of Katsu-Ya special creations with many priced between $10 to $15.
When my friend walked into the restaurant, staff members shouted out “irasshaimase” (which means welcome or please come in). After receiving her towelette, she knew what to order for us, because this is one of her favorite Japanese restaurants in town.
Some of the specials we tried were the halibut carpaccio with a citrus yuzu vinaigrette sprinkled with sea salt and little pink peppercorns. The peppercorns gave the soft, melt-in-your-mouth carpaccio a little kick and crunch.
Next, we ordered a lunch bento box attractively served with miso cod, tempura vegetables, salad, carrot sticks with broccoli, miso soup and rice for $15. It also comes with sushi, sashimi or a spicy tuna roll.
My favorite dish was the garlic Toro with crispy spinach that is flash-fried. It had the same crispiness as potato chips, yet made with green leafy spinach.
Within thirty minutes after opening for lunch, the restaurant was packed with Angelenos devouring spicy tuna on crispy rice, sashimi bowls and seaweed salads.
During the evening, the restaurant attracts a sushi and sake crowd. The Katsu-Ya group brewed 4,800 bottles of their own rice sake that are sold only at original Katsu-Ya restaurants. Try one before all the bottles are gone.
Next time you’re craving sushi, a bento box or seared abalone with crispy onions, visit The Izaka-Ya by Katsu-Ya. Open for lunch from 12 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. Mon./Sat. and dinner begins at 5:30 p.m. The restaurant will be closed on New Year’s Day. 8420 Third St. (323)782-9536.
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