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Tuesday, 12 February 2013

Domo Arigato, Izakaya Tomo

There is something inherently serene about Japanese cuisine. It compels one to slow down, to savour, and not to wolf and gobble (unless one is supremely adept with chopsticks). I think of koto music and cranes flying silently over a montane vista.

No, wait. That is but one side of Japanese cuisine. Turn this trope on its head, and one reveals the izakaya - the loud and cheerful, after work drinking establishment. Edmonton is finally home to one: Izakaya Tomo.

Squared away in a south-side strip mall, Izakaya Tomo is a boisterous and well-crafted evening out. Start with a Sake Sampler, where one may pick three from a roster of five sake offerings. Gokujo and Yoshinogawa are adept choices; the former is fruity and sharp while the latter is smoky and smooth.

Nama-Harumaki are a Japanese take on salad rolls, and trump this standard nibble by upping the ante with avocado, carrots, cukes, and smoked salmon. A tangy soy-mayo dressing caresses each bite.

Tempura Shrimp Rolls present spirals of tender rice, vivid nori, toothsome avocado, and the eponymous crunchy crustacean. A dab of wasabi allows one to doctor the soy sauce to taste.

Tako Yaki arrive covered in a blanket of shaved bonito. At first, the shavings appear to be moving as if alive. This illusion is a product of heat wafting off the freshly fried dumplings. Tender octopus morsels hide within these spheres, which are anointed with lashings of spicy mayo.

Unagi Don are a welcome coda. A delightful haystack of nori gives shelter to smoky and unctuous strips of barbecue eel. A peculiar, gelatinous layer blankets the underlying sticky rice. Its texture is a bit off-putting and, from the menu, I gather that this substance is mountain potato. A hearty shot of plum wine, giddy and resplendent with potent fruits, crowns this experience, which indeed captures the livelier and oft-ignored side of the Japanese culinary experience.

Izakaya Tomo on Urbanspoon


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