Good Izakaya to go in Yokohama

If you enjoy quality sake and excellent fish, there is an izakaya near Yokohama station that is worthy of a visit.  Izakayas can be smoke-filled and boisterous.  However, Aoki-sengyo-ten is a third generation fish shop located in Tsuruya cho only 350 meters from Yokohama station.  Many izakayas are older buildings that can feel cramped and loud filled with the traditional salaryman.  That is part of the appeal of the izakaya.  It is unpretentious and generally offer quality local food paired with the Japanese national beverages of nihon shu, schochu and beer.


But sometimes it is nice to upgrade the ambience for a change.  Aoki-sengyo-ten is a refreshing change that offers just that.  It is a newer building.  Once you approach outside entrance, it clear what you can expect before you enter inside.  The front of the store has a large storefront with a large three dimensional fish displayed high above the front door.  Then there are the many sake bottles in the storefront window.  Finally there is the recognizable sugidama, the brown cedar ball that is representative of a shop that most always ensure that there is  a focus on offering premium sake inside.  So, unlike some of the older izakayas that are windowless and protected from viewing from the street, Aoki clearly displays what to expect.


Once inside, it is a surprisingly an open and airy feeling.  It is a two floor izakaya with an open atrium-style design without the skylights.  It is spacious and stylish with massive thick natural cedar wood tables set in rows almost classroom style facing the sushi chef station in front of the kitchen.  The upstairs seating around the perimeter seemed to contain private rooms for groups.  The clientele is not the salaryman.  Instead, it is a mixture of couples, and some businessmen.


The Meguro Kama is enormous.  It is best to order it immediately as it takes approximately thirty minutes to cook and prepare due the size.  It can easily serve two people, and it is loaded with flavorful tender meat on the huge bone that is cut from the “collar” of the fish.  Priced at approximately ¥800, it is truly a bargain.


Most customers start with a sashimi order.  There are several options including some assorted platters as well as specific and customized choices.  The sashimi is displayed beautifully.  Sometimes using the whole fish as a decorative display depending on what is ordered.  The quality is superb.  All slices are soft, tender and flavorful.  On a recent visit, the vibrant red and lean Meguro was surprisingly very tender.


The sake selection is solid.  There are many choices, but not overwhelming.  The Kiddo Junmai Ginjo is a choice that is reliable and always delicious.  The brewery is located in the Wakayama prefecture.  Wakayama is largest peninsula in Japan located south of Osaka.  The prefecture is rich in culture and agriculture.  The style of sake is full and fruity.  Kiddo Junmai Ginjo is a well-balanced sake of with some melon aromas.  It is very easy to drink and pairs well with many foods.  The presentation of the sake is also impressive .  When sake is ordered in the quantity of 500ml it is served in a tokurri (small flask)  and accompanied with two ochokos (small sake cups).  Both the tokkuri and ochokos are displayed in a large masu (square wooden box used for measuring rice) filled with crushed ice.


Aoki is slightly more expensive that the traditional izakayas.  However, the value gained in atmosphere and food quality is worthwhile.  It is a nice change of pace if you are one that enjoys frequent izakaya visits, and especially good for females and couples.