Finding Izakaya Masa feels like uncovering some sort of secret Japanese club. There is only a small Japanese sign to mark the whereabouts, and you’re likely to pass right by the small Hillcrest storefront unless you know exactly what you’re looking for. I was looking for some authentic and quality (as far as my white ass can tell) Japanese cuisine. I’m pretty sure I found it.
Here is how I’m gauging authenticity.
1. Staff entirely Japanese
2. Patrons 90% + Japanese
3. Menu in English and Japanese
4. Cramped dining area – fitting for small Asian families
5. Walls littered with enough hand written signs and decorations to make Hoarders look like minimalists.
Need I keep going?
As for quality, there’s no way this hole in the wall would have gotten so popular unless they were serving the good stuff. Good stuff like takoyaki or octopus pancakes. I don’t need to tell you not to expect a traditional pancake. Inside these crispy fried balls, a soft wheat flour/egg mixture surrounds diced, slightly chewy pieces of grilled octopus. Those orbs of awesomeness are then topped with a thick garlicky, soy based sauce, bonito flakes and everyone’s favorite kewpie mayo.
The rest of the items were quality as well, I was suspicious of a short sushi list with only a few set pieces, but the scallop was a particularly good. It wouldn’t be my first choice for sushi, but it’s a fine addition to their izakaya items.
With the Hillcrest location of Yakitori Yakyudori set to close, Izakaya Masa offers many of the same items grilled meat items, and has a more extensive selection for those not as keen on offal and the like. Definitely worth finding.