By: Katie Bu
Boston offers an array of Japanese restaurants, but until recently, the city lacked a traditional Izakaya-style restaurant-Ittoku filled this void in November 2013.
Izakaya is a popular type of restaurant that traditionally caters to people looking to unwind after work with sake, beer, and small plates of various foods. Izakaya is often likened to tapas, as they both consist of a variety of small portions of food often shared between groups.
Owners Kentaro Suzuki, Minabu Ito, Taiji Mineo, and Carlos Vidal came together to open Ittoku, each bringing impressive backgrounds and culinary experience. Suzuki has nearly 20 years of experience as a sushi chef at various restaurants and works as the sushi chef and designer of the sushi menu at Ittoku. Ito and Mineo co-own Sapporo Ramen, a popular ramen shop in Cambridge which is expanding into the Korean supermarket, H-mart, in Center Square. Ito mans the restaurant’s kitchen and grill while Mineo remains behind the scenes providing background support. Vidal owns Cafe Mami, a small Japanese eatery in Porter Square. This is the first time these men have worked together in opening and running a full-service restaurant.
Petit Robert Bistro, a French restaurant, previously occupied the space at 1414 Comm. Ave. The interior design was subtly yet effectively renovated in order to capture the essence of a true Izakaya restaurant. For example, a wine cellar was converted into the sushi bar and red lanterns adorn the walls. In an interview, Suzuki likened this to one of the “old school drinking spaces in Japan.”
“Once [our customers] have stepped into our restaurant, we want them to feel like they’re in Japan,” Suzuki said.
Their location is accessible for students at BC, as it is situated across from the Warren Street T stop on the B line. They also offer $1 valet parking.
Ittoku, Japanese slang for “shall we go,” beckons a diverse array of people to try out the restaurant. Ittoku looks to cater to every demographic, from large groups of young professionals and college students looking to kick back with a few drinks and good food, to families with young children.
Their menu offers classic Izakaya food, and many come to Ittoku to try the eatery’s Yakitori, grilled chicken skewers. Utilizing all parts of the chicken, the variety of choices includes thigh, crispy skin, and gizzards. One of the most popular yakitori options is their bacon-wrapped yakitori. In addition to their grilled meats, their omusoba and sushi are popular amongst customers.
Staying true to the Izakaya spirit, Ittoku also carries an impressive collection of sake. The staff can offer advice on pairings of the food with either hot or chilled versions of the beverage. The sake is often served in traditional square, wooden cup, adding to the authenticity of the dining experience.
In addition to the extensive menu, diners can choose from daily specials, which serve a dual purpose. First, the chefs are able to feature seasonal foods and the freshest food. “The other day we had some North Carolina blue fin tuna, a great fish … but not something we can always carry,” Suzuki said.
Their daily specials also allow the chefs to experiment and see what foods their customers receive best. Recent specials include toro toro beef tongue, miso mackerel, and salmon with garlic mayo-some of which may be added to their permanent menu. In addition to updating their regular menu, the chefs also want to extend their dessert menu, which currently includes a waffle alamode and their unique “yakimo brulee”-a twist on creme brulee made with Japanese sweet potato.