Izakaya Akatora

Izakaya Akatora – Alhambra

Izakaya Akatora’s entrance off Main Street

Izakaya Akatora recently opened up by one of Alhambra’s most prominent intersections, Main Street and Garfield Avenue. Established by Michael Cardenas, a prominent LA restaurateur who has other Japanese-inspired ventures sprinkled throughout LA, this is a Japanese pub-themed restaurant with a good selection of quintessential Japanese dishes alongside more modern dishes.

Akatora sign
Alcohol jars line the entrance

Two of my friends and I came here for my last Dine LA meal of this season’s Restaurant Week–to take advantage of its $15 three course lunch.

Sushi bar
Sushi bar

Izakaya is the Japanese answer to an English pub, serving both food and alcoholic drinks. The inside was rather sleek and spanking new, decorated with traditional Japanese sake containers and alcohol jars, wood paneled ceilings and industrial-style ceiling lamps.

View toward the entrance
View toward the entrance

It’s important to note that Izakaya Akatora doesn’t open for lunch on the weekends. Also, I definitely recommend advance reservations. We were fortunate we had made reservations online, because the place was completely packed for our Friday lunch.

Yellowtail jalapeno carpaccio with serrano chili, and onion vinaigrette
Yellowtail jalapeno carpaccio with serrano chili, and onion vinaigrette

For the appetizer, each of us got a plate of yellowtail jalapeno carpaccio, 4 pieces of sliced yellowtail jack marinaded with serrano chili and onion vinaigrette of olive oil and soy sauce. A great start to the lunch! The yellowtail was tender and flavorful.

Chef's chirashi bowl of today's fresh fish
Chef’s chirashi bowl of today’s fresh fish

Next, the entrees arrived. Laurie and I opted for the chef’s chirashi bowl, packed with a rather generous assortment of sashimi (ranging from spicy tuna, octopus, shrimp to spicy scallop and even a piece of salmon), expertly laid over a bed of sushi rice.

The sushi rice was a bit too drenched in sushi vinegar for my liking, but the sashimi hit the spot. For the record, I’m not a sashimi aficionado or connoisseur by any means, but I’ve learned to enjoy raw fish every now and again.

Fresh fish with shrimp tempura roll
Fresh fish with shrimp tempura roll

Rosalie got 5 pieces of nigiri sushi (shrimp, salmon, roe, tuna, etc.) and a shrimp tempura hand roll. In her words: “You know I’m not eloquent with my words…. I’m more of a Facebook like or don’t like kinda person…so I liked the tempura roll! Sushi was same as everywhere else to me; I have no taste for raw fish.”

I was also glad to see the sushi ginger was not pink, but a healthy pale yellow hue–pink ginger is usually a sign that it’s been artificially dyed (at least in the US).

Chef Hiro's famous green tea pudding
Chef Hiro’s famous green tea pudding

Rosalie needed to head into work, so we quietly muttered under our breaths, wondering when the dessert would arrive. A waiter keenly sensed the urgency and quickly reassured us that dessert was arriving.

The green tea pudding was layered on top with a brown sugar syrup, and a raspberry. The pudding had a flan-like consistency and melted in my mouth, but the syrup was too saccharine for our liking. Also, the green tea pudding was served with a ladle-like glass spoon more suited for soups than for enjoying a delicate dessert. Odd.

I enjoyed the meal very much–the atmosphere, the waitstaff, and the food are all solid. Izakaya Akatora was definitely a nice departure from the all-you-can-eat sushi experiences I tend to partake in, to really sit back and enjoy each morsel of fresh fish, instead of inhaling plate after plate like a madman.

Izakaya Akatora
115 W. Main Street
Alhambra, CA 91801


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