Rows of sake line the wall above the long wooden bar, where patrons propped up on bar stools get a front row view of the bustling open kitchen.
You could easily be mistaken for thinking you'd walked into a wine bar at Izakaya Fujiyama, Kenji Maenaka's (ex-Bodega) newest Japanese venture. Rows of sake line the wall above the long wooden bar, where patrons propped up on bar stools get a front row view of the bustling open kitchen.
All the usual suspects appear on the menu here – sushi, nigiri and sashimi – and they're done exceptionally well. But the real highlights are to be found on their tapas menu. The Kingfish Nuta with fried tortilla chips makes for an ideal precursor to Kenji's Fried Chicken, best enjoyed with a generous dollop of wasabi mayo. The Teriyaki Beef Rib is also a must-try. Rich, glazed and marbled with fat, I'd be surprised if the staff have yet to see anything other than raw left-over bones. Vegos need not despair: one of the best dishes is their delectable Three-Bean Salad with sesame dressing. If you can get through all of this without recourse to a defibrillator, then the gluttonous condensed milk ice-cream with chocolate cake and poached quince will surely finish you off.
Dominating the drinks list are twenty-odd different sakes available by a generous 90ml pour. The wine list is concise and features some pleasant French drops but it's overshadowed by the beer selection, which includes some fantastic rarities like Hitachino Nest ales and more well-known favourites like Sapporo.
And if Charlie Ainsbury's (ex-Duke Bistro) 'Fuji-Mama' is anything to go by, the cocktail list is also worth a nod. Indeed any bartender who can seamlessly blend Midori into a dry and delicious martini - without reminding me of those first few months of being eighteen - has my complete and utter confidence!
Izayaka has a lot of ticks next to its name, so it's shame that it's let down by the uninspiring fit-out. Everything apart from the bar area seems somewhat carelessly thrown together and lacks that element of 'cool' that the people behind Bodega have down to a tee. Inject a little more love into the space, and Izakaya has the potential to become a Surry cult-favourite.