Address: 201 Bank St, Ottawa
Hours: 5pm – 10pm (Sun – Thu); 5pm – 1am (Fri – Sat)
Earlier this winter, my wife and I stopped by Izakaya Shingen to refuel and reheat after taking a stroll downtown to see Christmas lights.
The décor eschews the typical clean-cut, minimalist design of sushi restaurants, with an eclectic assortment of knickknacks and adornments that give a very pub-like – but still Japanese – vibe. Furthering the convivial atmosphere was the surprisingly large crowd for a Monday evening, which I took as a good sign.
Izakaya are probably most similar to tapas restaurants/bars, with lots of small, savoury plates that are meant to be shared with friends over drinks. Loving all of those things, and with izakayas being such an uncommon sight in Ottawa, we targeted the more typical izakaya foods on the menu.
First up was the chicken karaage ($7.40) – Japanese-style fried chicken. The plate came with several pieces of moist, boneless chicken. The batter was nice and crispy, and a soy-based dipping sauce added some depth of flavour.
Sweet potato croquettes ($6.20) rounded out our deep-fryer fare for the evening. The mashed sweet potato on the interior was molten hot, and were a bit difficult to pick up with chopsticks without squishing them. That being said, they were quite tasty, and kewpie mayo for dipping added a layer of umami to these red-hot bites.
Following the croquettes was the agedashi tofu ($6.20). This simple dish was comprised of four lightly-battered pieces of fried tofu in a dashi broth with horseradish, daikon, and green onion. It was hearty and warming, but the crisp skin of the fried tofu seemed wasted in a broth.
Last but not least, it wouldn’t be a meal at an izakaya without some grilled skewers (~$2 each). We ordered one of pork belly, and two zucchini, to have at least some vegetables in this meal. As soon as they arrived at our table, we could smell the charcoal that they’d been grilled over. The pork belly was tender, lightly seasoned, and had a good balance of fat and meat. The zucchini skewers had a pleasant amount of char to them, without being overcooked and mushy.
Our green tea was kept topped up with hot water over the course of the meal, and the friendly wait staff gives a group welcome and goodbye to customers as they come and go.
A lot of drinking establishments will often either overcharge for their food, or compromise on quality, but Izakaya Shingen is putting out some delicious bar bites to keep your night going at a reasonable price too. Kanpai!