There's a reason behind the neon "ramen and dumpling" signage outside of Izakaya, located in the heart of Midtown. For late nighters, both dumplings and ramen are considered their own food groups, that are now more easily attainable on this side of town. Chef Jean-Philippe Gaston not only learned dumpling technique from the best in Houston, but he's shipping in fresh and custom-made ramen noodles from Sun Noodle out of Honolulu. More on that later.
For starters, definitely try the "Tori Kawa:" moist, rich chicken skin bunched on a skewer then acutely grilled with the right amount of crispy char. Be sure to squeeze that lemon all over and served alongside a refreshing pint of Hitachino White Ale, it's quite the bite indeed. When it comes to chicken skin in general, refer to this late night nursery rhyme:
Gaston staged at Sarah Place to learn authentic Chinese dishes eventually placing his emphasis on dumplings. For weeks he learned from a woman named Achin who spoke no English. Gaston was able to convince her and her husband to come work mornings at Izakaya making dumplings, they even turned the raw bar into an enclosed, proper dumpling making station. Gaston works in tandem with the couple making fillings and dough. Xiao Long Bao pork soup dumplings are one of the items that can be found along with pork, vegetable, and seafood, steamed or pan-fried.
The ramen section covers its bases with: Miso, Kimchi, Shoyu, Tomato. Vegetarian, FRIED CHICKEN, and what's this— the "Mazemen Ramen" featuring brandy-cured foie gras. The "Mazeman Ramen," which, traditionally, are noodles served in a light broth finished with a ladel of hot fat poured over the top, gets a serious upgrade at Izakaya with garlic velouté that's then mounted with brandy cured foie gras. And be sure to order a side of the addicting Goma ae, the sesame paste which Gaston describes as, "sweet and salty and just perfect."
Lots to sip upon, but perhaps the most unique are the sake "go-cups," a portioned cup of unfiltered sake that's a popular treat in Tokyo though relatively hard to find outside of Japan.
Izakaya is open until midnight Thursday to Saturday.
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