I thought I knew Japanese food. I love Japanese food and eat at Japanese restaurants quite often. Turns out I’ve never eaten izakaya style food. Izakaya is like a Japanese bar that serves small plates of food (like tapas in Spain). Yume-ya in Sunnyvale, CA is a cross between an izakaya and a sushi joint. We went with a friend who regularly goes and can order in Japanese so I got to try several new dishes. Don’t be scared of this next picture.
First, we got raw squid that had been marinated (fermented?) in its own gut juice (ika no shiokara). The dish looked pretty disgusting. It was very salty with a hint of lemon and the texture was slippery and soft. I couldn’t chew what I assume was the skin layer. I probably won’t order this again.
Next we got garlic shoots with fatty pork belly. This dish was shining with oil but tasted good. The greens were crisp and had excellent onion flavor. The pork was melt in your mouth (because it was mainly fat). I only wish it could be made with less oil.
We also had beef tongue and takoyaki. The beef tongue was grilled nicely and was tender. The sweet vinegar dipping sauce paired nicely with the salty meat. The takoyaki was fresh and hot with the octopus inside not being overcooked. Nice presentation but could have had more bonito flakes, I didn’t taste them at all.
Two orders of uni nigiri and a giant seaweed onigiri came next. Uni is sea urchin and I love it. These tasted great and were creamy. Yum! The rice in the onigiri was cooked perfectly but I didn’t love the spicy filling.
We also got sweet shrimp nigiri, which is raw shrimp. This was my favorite new thing to try. I’ve never had raw shrimp before and it was so creamy and delicate. The wasabi in between the shrimp and rice was great burst of flavor combining with the shrimp and roe in your mouth. This is a must try.
Lastly, we shared a bowl of chazuke, which is rice and fish roe in hot tea. I would have preferred salmon to the roe because I don’t like cooked fish eggs, but it was a comforting finish to the meal.
There were two dishes that we tried but I didn’t get a picture of before they got eaten (I’ve linked to pictures I found on google). One was mackerel, or saba, sashimi. This fish had a nice salty and fatty flavor. The other was fried shrimp heads, which was creepy to me at first due to the large eyes staring at me. I was converted once I bit into the crunchiness. It was a tasty bite.