Hours: Lunch, dinner: seven days
Open late: Friday & Saturday till 11:30
Takashi Yagihachi's entry in the izakaya/yakitori sweeps.
Ramen is, for a certain breed, the unattainable holy grail of soups. So it's initially disappointing that there are just a handful of them on Takashi Yagihachi's menu. They include the basic Tokyo-style, soy-based shoyu ramen and tan tan-men, a mildly spicy miso-based stew thick with ground pork and bulging meatballs that's the most satisfying bowl on the menu. The rest of it is given over to charcoal-fired skewers, side dishes, "tapas," and raw appetizers. As compared to Yagihashi's namesake restaurant in Bucktown, it's a blessing to make a smaller financial commitment in exchange for the crunchy chicken karaage blistered in duck fat, or the creamy cold house-made tofu dressed with chile threads, bonito flakes, and sweet seaweed marmalade. It doesn't stop there: An octopus ceviche with pickled vegetables and thick fried noodles is a textural rampage; cocktail-weenie-shaped curried potato croquettes, though vegan, are almost fatty in their richness. Luscious miso-dressed black cod is a miniature of the ideal, and grilled chicken hearts are plump and beefy. A charred mochi brick is glutinous and chewy under its girdle of crispy bacon; chunks of duck are rimmed with fat and dripping with juices. Gyoza, pan-seared on one side, are soft and pliable on the other, and a honeyed quail thigh is skewered in the company of a species-concordant ovum. The modest handful of desserts includes an intimidating but ultimately rewarding coconut and condensed-milk quail egg shooter; a sea salt ice cream that tastes almost caramelized, teetering on the edge of savoriness; and a handful of chewy Asian-flavored macaroons (raspberry wasabi, oba, yuzu). Read the full review >>
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Though chef Takashi Yagihashi initially withheld the label "izakaya" from this downtown spot, it's a not unpersuasive approximation of an a Japanese pub—particularly when you pair his small bites with something from the deep sake list or a practically winey Hitachino Red Rice Ale. The sleek restaurant's loud and lively, with a tall ceiling, long communal tables, and big booths that reinforce the illusion of space and chumminess even when it can't contain the crowds. —Mike Sula