Inakaya is in the ground floor of the New York Times building (231 West 40th Street, just past the Muji store off 8th Ave) near Times Square in Manhattan. If that seems like an unlikely place for an izakaya, it is. This robataya is the U.S. outpost of a Roppongi izakaya of the same name. The “tourism” comes in with their presentation. Food is fussily handed to bar customers and the waitstaff via long wooden handled trays across a wide bar that is decorated with today’s fresh ingredients. Oh and the demonstration making mochi rice balls in which two cooks use large wooden mallets to grind down the rice – out in the dining room. There’s even audience participation – customers can take turns as well. Not to mislead. This isn’t the 3 story TGI Fridays of Izakayas, though it is much more grand (see the high soaring ceilings) than any other izakaya in New York.
It’s hard to hold this nod to tourists against them since the food is so authentic. They even have special whole fish flown in from Tsukishi fish market. Just be ready to pay a steep price. Last night’s special fish was $139 for a 1.8 lb example. Other details add to the authenticity, such as the hand drawn specials list – in Japanese with no English equivalent so only Japanese customers know what’s fresh/good that day. Also note the wooden plaque identifying the sushi chef and his resume (to the right of the far left robata cook in the photo above).
Full review coming soon. Until then, consider Inakaya as a possible destination for out-of-town guests or when no other izakaya is open. Inakaya is open 365 days a year so last night (New Years Day) when we took friends to Japantown (East of Grand Central) without calling ahead we found Restaurant Riki, Menchanko Tei, East, Sake Bar Hatchan, and Aburiya Kinnosuke all closed for the holiday. A quick Open Table search revealed Inakaya had availability, just 2 stops away on the 7 train (or a short taxi ride). Worth the trip.