A Neighborhood Japanese Pub Returns for Outdoor Dining - Izakaya Hachi [Thoughts + Pics]

As we approach the one year mark of the pandemic’s shutdown of all indoor dining around town, one of the most convivial dining experiences that has been missing is that of eating at an Izakaya (or Japanese Pub). The merriment, the “Kanpai!”-ing and clinking of Sake / Beer cups and rowdy atmosphere feels like something from another era right now.

One small neighborhood gem - Izakaya Hachi - has converted part of their strip mall parking lot into a dining area, with socially distanced tables and the hopes of generating enough business to stay alive during the pandemic. It had been at least a year or more since we dined at an Izakaya and we wanted to show some support to the small mom & pop businesses around town, so off we went.

It was encouraging (albeit a bit scary) to see 100% of their outdoor dining tables booked (including a wait list). But all the tables were properly spaced apart and everyone was wearing masks. We began with:

Octopus Mozuku Seaweed Salad:

Light, refreshing. The Octopus was a bit on the meatier, a touch chewy side, but still tender. The Mozuku Seaweed and Arugula complemented each bite nicely.

Ryoshi Zake Junmai Ginjo Sake (Shimane, Japan):

We wanted to also show some support to the Sake Industry, hit hard as well during the pandemic, and our waitress recommended Ryoshi Zake Junmai Ginjo Sake. I’d never heard of this one before, but I’m always glad to try out new Sake, especially if it’s recommended. Unfortunately, this was like “Fire Water”. :frowning: Strong alcohol burn, long burn finish as well.

However, rest assured Hachi has a variety of legit Sake that drinks smoother on the menu to enjoy. :wink: We’ve had those before, so we were looking for something new. But some recommendations on the menu include: Koshino Kanbai Tokusen, Kokuryu (Black Dragon) Kuzuryu Junmai, Dewazakura Oka Ginjo and a few others.

Natto Beans:

Natto is one of those “special” food items: You either love it or hate it. :sweat_smile: This was pure Natto in all its sticky, pungent glory. :stuck_out_tongue: :frowning:

Jidori Omelet:

A great Dashimaki Tamago (Japanese Omelet infused with Dashi) is a wonderful thing. It had been over a year since we remember having this dish. Hachi’s arrived piping hot. It was a touch overcooked, but still with great soft, eggy texture and a nice Dashi infusion. :blush: Wadatsumi, one block over, and Otafuku’s versions are better, but this was still comforting and tasty, especially on this cool evening.

Gyu-Tan (Beef Tongue):

From their Binchotan (Japanese Charcoal) Grill, Hachi’s Beef Tongue arrived a nice medium doneness, and was juicy and beefy. :heart: Tender, succulent slivers with a touch of smokiness. Wonderful.

Yakitori Skewers:

Jidori Chicken Meatball Skewer:

Izakaya Hachi also serves a variety of Yakitori (Grilled Chicken Skewers), another item we haven’t had in ages. We couldn’t wait! The Tsukune (Jidori Chicken Meatballs) were just OK. A bit dried out, solid flavor from the Tare (Soy Sauce-based Sauce), but lacking the greatness of legendary versions like at Izakaya Bincho (RIP) and Aburiya Raku (RIP).

Jidori Chicken Thigh & Green Onion Skewer:

Their Negima (Jidori Chicken Thigh and Green Onion Skewer) was much better, juicy, moist, flavorful Jidori Chicken Thigh meat, the Tare Sauce provided that perfect balance of savory and a touch of sweet. :blush:

Crab Croquette:

Their Kani Korokke (Crab Croquette) was nicely fried, not too oily, but it was a bit too much Cream and not enough Crab flavor. Not bad at all, but there are other versions of Kani Korokke around town that are better flavor.

Agedashi Tofu:

A classic Japanese Pub dish, Hachi’s version arrived sitting in their Housemade Dashi a bit too long. It was soggy, and a touch lukewarm. :frowning: But I give them a pass, since they were at 100% capacity and navigating this new outdoor dining attempt.

Jidori Chicken Cartilage:

Delicious! :blush: Crunchy morsels of Jidori Chicken Cartilage with a bit of Chicken Meat as well, for all Nankotsu lovers out there, this was a nice reminder of what’s been missing for a year now.

Jidori Chicken Karaage (Fried Chicken):

Their Jidori Chicken Karaage (Fried Chicken Thighs) were unfortunately not as good: As you can see from the pics (above), it soaked up too much oil, was greasy, and looked like it was done as a separate batch from the Cartilage.

Spicy Miso Beef Intestine:

This came highly recommended from our waitress, so we decided to give it a try. The flavors were wonderful, the Miso infused in each bite of the Cabbage and Beef Intestines. However, the Beef Intestines were just extremely chewy. :cry: Not just slightly chewy, but a chore to eat. This was clearly a far cry from the tender, crisped and creamy center of Raku’s Intestine, but they were legendary for a reason.

Grilled Rice Ball (Japanese Plum):

We finished up with their Yaki Onigiri (Grilled Rice Ball) with Umeboshi (Preserved Japanese Plum). This arrived hot off the grill, crispy on the outside, lightly smoky, and with soft warm Rice within and that perfect balance of tart-savory-sweet to finish off the meal. Lovely. :heart:

Izakaya Hachi in outdoor dining mode is running at a limited capacity. They are offering a truncated menu (maybe ~50% of the items they had previous to COVID), but unfortunately some of their best dishes (like their numerous Kamameshi (Iron Pot Rice)) are not available right now. There were quite a few dishes that turned out to be average at best, but I can’t imagine the trials they had to go through shutting down during the pandemic, then trying takeout, then trying to get back to outdoor dining now. (Did they lose some key kitchen staff? Unknown.)

Still, even in this new, limited capacity, Hachi offers some enjoyable, classic Izakaya (Japanese Pub) dishes such as their Jidori Omelet (Dashimaki Tamago), meaty, tender Grilled Beef Tongue (Gyu-Tan) and Negima (Jidori Chicken Thigh & Green Onion Skewers). Their Grilled Rice Balls (Yaki Onigiri) with 4 different flavors is another excellent option and they have a solid Sake selection to enjoy a relaxing meal out. We look forward to when Izakaya Hachi can safely re-open indoors with their full menu again and star dishes returning.

Izakaya Hachi
1880 West Carson St.
Torrance, CA 90501
Tel: (310) 618-8357

Also in Costa Mesa.