Good Japanese Izakayas blend multifaceted cuisine, casual timing and impeccable service. IZA is sorely lacking in a couple of these areas.
With a petite room opening straight onto Anfu lu, the mostly bar-counter restaurant feels an escape from the increasingly westernized neighbourhood. It’s tastefully minimal and with both a sushi station and yakitori grill (and ¥35 Kerin draught) it has all the ingredients for dishing up on-point Japanese cuisine.
Which is IZA’s only redeeming feature. The food is strong if not predictable within all the main disciplines covered. A handful swathes of salmon sashimi (¥88) are exactly as they should be without excelling. A soft shell crab sushi roll (¥58) has enough crunch but is ultimately light on content. The grilled chicken (¥22) and eggplant (¥12) and salmon (¥48) grilled skewers are well balanced with just enough sweet Teriyaki sauce, though a little expensive. Supporting dishes do not push the envelope either, with too much dried-fish charging a lettuce and scallop salad tossed in an orange & ginger dressing (¥68).
Plus everything is rushed out like this is last orders and plates are cleaned up like they only have one set of crockery for the whole restaurant. IZA’s deviation from comfortable-yet-professional sticks out like a sore thumb against the considered Izakaya vibe that we’ve grown to love about Japanese food.
Which is one of Shanghai’s best and most prolific cuisines. With so many options across town, like Niao An on Zhongshan Park or Tentekomai on Wuyi Rd, we don’t need to go much further than the (former) French Concession to find something which can tick more boxes.