Went out last night with some work colleagues and decided to try the Izakaya Bar on Lower George St, Dublin. It is one of four establishments owned by Yamamori, which launched its first restaurant in 2005, beginning with noodles, then sushi, before opening an oriental café with a basement for drinking.
Unfortunately, I was too busy having a good time to take my own photos, so the ones you’ll find on this post are examples from the Yamamori website, which are slightly different from the Izakaya’s current decor. The doorway above is the same: you climb down some stairs just past the Oriental Café entrance and go through some double doors. The bar is illuminated beautifully on your left while wooden tables and chairs are evenly spread around the remaining floor space.
They have also preserved the original stone fireplace, and though some people hold the opinion that it should be knocked down to make more room for the bar, its presence adds some old-fashioned class and reminds you that, for all the ‘Japanese’ design, you are still somewhere in Dublin.
We took seats nearest to the door, giving us exclusive ownership of a 6-seater booth and a panoramic view. Along the ceiling were stencils of cherry blossoms and Chinese dragons with a huge tree spreading out from the furthest wall at the back, red paper lanterns glowed at intervals, and where the photo below shows an actual projection screen, there are now wooden boards for the movies being played by an overhead projector.
During the night, I observed an old samurai film, Afro Samurai, and Eureka Seven, as well as the chalkboard menu installed where a picture frame hangs in the photo above. The menu may be limited, compared to an authentic izakaya, but the dishes were reasonably priced at €4.00-€8.00 for each steamed, fried or fresh snack, with a money-saving “5 for €25.00” for those who are particularly hungry. Since we arrived with empty stomachs, we availed of the offer, as well as ordering beef curry and Japanese beer (€10.00) to cure our clammering appetites.
Understandably, the waiter (who doubled as a barman) found our voracious attitude a little daunting and kindly advised that we might not be able to finish what we ordered. Confident, we beamed in his direction and assured him that every plate would be empty. We had pork gyouza, prawn gyouza, scallop wonton, beef teriyaki skewers, and duck spring rolls. The beer curry came in a large bowl with pickles resting in the middle plus a smaller bowl of rice. Although the beef was shredded rather than slow-cooked in chunks, it was full of flavour and went wonderfully with a bottle of Sapporo or Asahi beer.
Throughout the night, the service was swift and impeccable, with every member of staff passing your table to check for drained glasses and unwanted crockery, as well as apologising when a rare delay occurred. The waiter/barman in particular seemed to feel quite strongly about this, explaining the late removal of our plates as the misfortune of a peak at the bar, even though we were not especially annoyed. All the same, it was a considerate touch that added millions and was also a clever way to emphasise popularity.
For those who care about the music: no chance of disappointment. The music they played was a lounge mix overseen by a DJ commanding an impressive collection of classic stonking tunes. If you ever find yourself listening to music and wanting to know what crafty works are being played, you know this is a venue worth hitting – and to this second, I still hanker for the pumping beats I heard in the Izakaya.