Good seafood and sake Izakaya in Yokohama
There is no shortage of izakayas throughout Japan. Izakayas are the gastropubs of Japan. They are not merely drinking establishments. There is a great emphasis on providing high quality food in these casual environments.
One of the better izakayas located in Yokohama is Imamura Shoten located at the west exit of Yokohama Station near Bic Camera. The izakaya is particular good for fish.
This shop is very popular with locals. Unlike many izakayas that tend to be filled with groups of salarymen, Imamura Shoten seems to attract a younger crowd and the mix of males and female are evenly split. From the outside, the place looks unassuming if not dubious. The daily weekday happy hour 5:00pm-7:00pm is very popular. Beer, highballs and nihonshu (Japanese Sake) are about ¥200 each.
While the happy hour drink prices are very friendly, it is the fish quality that makes this place shine. There is the typical yakitori grill that attracts many customers, but the quality of fresh fish is solid. Even during their happy hour sometimes an assorted sashimi dish is only ¥300.
On certain occasions, the shop will ceremoniously present their large whole fish by parading around the dining room with festive excitement among the crowd. This is typically a seasonal and special occasion and not a daily or weekly occurrence. For example, during the winter season there was a celebration of Buri, the yellowtail fish. The seasonal buri of winter is usually more tender and best served as sashimi. On this given night at Imamura Shoten, I was unaware of the celebration. The sushi chef uncrated a large whole fish. Two staff people carried the fish around for display as the crowd chanted with excitement. It was unusual for me. Afterward, the large whole fish was returned to the open kitchen area where the sushi chef skillfully cut the whole fish. It was also interesting to see how quickly and efficiently the whole fish can be sliced and portioned into delicious portions of sashimi.
More recently there was another fish celebration. Late spring brings another delicious seasonal fish, sawara. Sawara is more commonly known as Spanish Mackerel. During the spring the sawara is a bit leaner due to the migration and swimming to changing water temperatures. However, the Sawaara recently served at Imamura Shoten was rich and delicious. After a similar celebration and display as the winter Buri months ago, the sushi chef went to work on the whole fish. While the fish is tender, the chef applied a fired torch to char the outer skin. This created a nice texture and softer layer of flavor on the outside of the fish.
Types of fish and availability will vary greatly from izakayas. Imamura Shoten obviously places an emphasis for acquiring quality whole fish. Their grilled hokke and Meguro kama are also excellent.
There are some foods that are consistently at most all izakayas. One such dish is potato salad. For a long time I always dismissed the potato salad at izakayas. It seemed very unusual to me that potato salad was considered a common dish in Japan. Later, I discovered that many izakayas pride themselves with their homemade poatot salads. Since then, I have discovered a correlation. If the shop has a good potato salad on the menu, then the shop is probably very good for everything else. Imamura Shoten has the best potato salad. The potatoes are still warm and mixed with the sweet Japanese mayonnaise, mustard, egg, cucumber, carrots and ham. The portion is large and essentially a meal in itself.
Imamura Shoten is one of the best izakayas for quality fish at a affordable prices.