Philly’s Sushi Whisperer Kevin Yanaga Debuts Izakaya by Yanaga in Fishtown!
Glu Hospitality and Philly’s Sushi Whisperer Kevin Yanaga announce the opening of Izakaya by Yanaga in Fishtown at 1832 Frankford Avenue. Yanaga brings over 10 years of experience in the the top sushi restaurants in the region, including at Izakaya at Borgata, Double Knot, Pod, Morimoto and Zama. After working with Stephen Starr, Michael Schulson and some of the biggest names in the business, Yanaga will now open his very first restaurant as Executive Chef and Partner. For his first outing, Yanaga will debut two concepts under one roof. Izakaya by Yanaga will open first just in time for fall dining season, followed by chef’s tasting room Omakase by Yanaga in late fall. Izakaya will open for a Labor Day Weekend preview on Thursday, September 2 to Saturday, September 4, 2021, from 5:00pm to 10:00pm nightly. After closing for Labor Day and additional interior work, Izakaya will officially open for regular daily service starting on Thursday, September 9, 2021 with weekly hours running Wednesday to Sunday, 4:00pm to 10:00pm nightly.
“I am proud to team up with Glu Hospitality for my very first restaurant,” said Yanaga. “The restaurant will feature two separate and unique concepts under the same roof. Izakaya by Yanaga will offer a more casual dining and bar experience for locals, catering to the surrounding neighborhood and repeat customers. When it is ready, Omakase will offer a higher end dining experience that is more upscale, personalized and intimate. There will be a higher price point with expanded sake and Japanese scotch and whiskey program, plus exclusive cocktails paired with the offerings.”
He continued, “I wanted to offer a restaurant experience that is currently lacking in the Fishtown, Kensington and Northern Liberties area of Philadelphia. Those three neighborhoods are full of such exciting and boundary-pushing restaurants, and this seemed the perfect place to break out on my own and add to the mix. I wanted to create a new restaurant that is friendly and approachable, yet has a second side with elevated food and drink selections not typically seen in our area. We want to be both a neighborhood restaurant for locals, as well as a culinary destination for people traveling across and into the region.”
For the new restaurant, Yanaga and Glu will feature two side-by-side concepts in 2,500 square feet of space. Izakaya will operate in the front bar and front dining room with around 60 seats, with Omakase to operate the private dining room in the back with around 12 seats, located through the double doors in the middle of the restaurant. Below ground, the basement level features a giant kitchen that gives ample space for the two concepts to co-exist and thrive side-by-side.
First to open will be Izakaya by Yanaga, a fresh and fun Japanese cuisine concept that will feature traditional dishes plus Yanaga’s modernized twist on the classics. The hot section of the menu will showcase the same expertise and attention to detail as the sushi and raw side of the menu. Dining and kitchen service will be free flowing, whereas guests are encouraged to order a number of small and large plates to enjoy and share. The culinary team will prepare an ebb and flow for the dishes, and send them out as prepared to create an experience that is unique for every visit. Dishes at Izakaya will be a mix of hot and cold, cooked and raw, and small and large plates. Dishes will be priced and portioned perfect for sharing. At the bar, look for a vast selection of Sake options, most of which are not currently available anywhere else in the city. Additionally, bar patrons will find a selection of eight hand-craft cocktails that use ingredients from the kitchen to optimize pairings of food with drink. Additionally, there will be six beer and cider beers on draft, as well as in bottles and cans. The beer program will focus on Japanese beers, locally made craft beers, unique ciders, seltzers, as well as a few American favorites. The bar program is rounded out by the wine program, with around a dozen selections available by the glass and bottle.
EXECUTIVE CHEF KEVIN YANAGA
Born in California but raised in Japan, Kevin Yanaga got his start in professional cooking in Kawasaki, Kanagawa Prefecture. Though his home city sits on Tokyo Bay, a short distance south from the bustling capital, the longtime sushi chef found his earliest work in kitchens, manning the burners in a series of Izakayas, or casual pubs.
Long fascinated by the artform, Yanaga logged his first real experience preparing sushi back in the States, as the executive chef of Naked Fish in Salt Lake City, Utah. In addition to immersing himself in the nuances of preparation and sourcing, Yanaga also fell in love with the high pressure, interactive nature of the sushi bar, solidifying his career path. “You’ll get direct feedback from your guest,” he says. “You’re always getting judged, finding out if people like your work, so you have to have so much discipline. It motivates you to be your best.”
In 2009, Yanaga relocated to Philadelphia to grow his raw-fish repertoire, starting at STARR’s flagship Morimoto before becoming the head chef at Hiroyuki Tanaka’s Zama, in Philly’s Rittenhouse Square. This position gave him the opportunity to develop his own style in the context of sushi, marrying local ingredients and Western culinary techniques with traditional Japanese touches via omakase, multi-course tasting menus that showcased his original voice.
Next up for Yanaga was a run behind the eight-seat sushi bar at Izakaya, chef Michael Schulson’s Japanese restaurant in the Borgata Hotel & Casino in Atlantic City, N.J. Success here led to Schulson installing Yagana as the main sushi draw at Philadelphia’s Double Knot, where he earned numerous accolades for his innovative omakase stylings, including a rave three-bell review and a “Rising Star Chef Of The Year” nod from The Philadelphia Inquirer, and a “Best Chefs of 2016” honor from Thrillist.
Back with the STARR family as of 2018, Yanaga brings talent, precision and creativity to University City’s Pod as the restaurant’s executive chef. Serving Philadelphia since 2000, the long-running favorite is in the process of evolving physically and conceptually to accommodate contemporary tastes. Driven by his personal philosophies of culinary fluidity and sustainable sourcing, Yanaga bolsters Pod’s reputation in a restaurant scene that’s ever-changing.
THE CULINARY TEAM
Chef Kevin Yanaga has been a drawing name to many Japanese style restaurants in Philadelphia, with a background working with Starr (POD) and Schulson (Double Knot) restaurants. For his Chef de Cuisine, Yanaga has tapped Tom LoMonte, who most recently came from Zama Restaurant. LaMonte is excited to showcase his own takes on traditional Japanese cuisine, while working side by side with Chef Yanaga to offer both experiences with casual to elevated options.
FROM THE KITCHEN
Yanaga and LoMonte worked side-by-side to execute Chef’s vision for the Izakaya menu, with selections that are both traditional as well as more moderinzed delicacies. Chef will also put his own spin on beloved dishes he grew up with as a child. THe menu features Yanaga’s favorite dishes, that include his take on ramen, dumplings and several raw dishes (sushi, sashimi, nigri). THe menu also features vegan and vegetarian offerings, with other dishes to come in the future.
For the starting menu, Izakaya by Yanaga will feature:
(other menu items will be added by opening day)
Umami cuke $4
IBY salad $7
Orange ginger dressing, Heirloom Tomato, Fried Shallots
Ika fries $9
Fried calamari and shishito pepper
Oishi shrimp taco $9
Guacamole, sweet and spicy aioli, pickles
Karaage chicken $8
Sriracha Buffalo / spicy aioli
Duck onigiri $9
Confit duck/ tare/ radicchio
Curry short rib bao $8
Short rib/curry sauce/ pickles
Pork gyoza $8
Berkshire pork/kimchi/red pepper mustard
Mushroom gyoza $8
Wild mushroom/eggplant/sun dried tomato/ truffle vinaigrette
TanTan Mazemen $13
Soupless noodle/spicy meat sauce/soft boiled egg
Vegetable TanTan Mazemen $13
Soupless noodle/spicy tofu and mushroom sauce
Sushi Maki —
Spicy tuna $7
Tuna , scallion and spicy mayo
Spicy salmon $7
Salmon, scallion and spicy mayo
Spicy yellowtail $8
Yellowtail, scallion and spicy mayo
Snow crab $8
Snow crab, tobiko mayo and avocado
Shrimp tempura $8
Spicy mayo and scallion
Chilean seabass $8
Spicy mayo and scallion
Toro scallion $10
Bluefin tuna belly and scallion
Cucumber and avocado $5
Chirashi sushi (fish over seasoned sushi rice) —
Add Guacamole $2
Cucumber, chirashi sauce, nori
Cucumber, chirashi sauce, nori
Shrimp tempura and snow crab $15
Cucumber, chirashi sauce, nori
Sashimi Bar —
Guacamole, Tobanjang vinaigrette, ninja radish
Peach, ponzu vinaigrette, Chive oil
East Coast Oyster 3 pieces a per order $2
Ponzu, yuzu-Kosho, chives
For guests with a sweet tooth, Yanaga will feature his own version of Fried Ice Cream with Tempura Fried Ice Cream, with a variety that will change daily.
FROM THE BAR
Izakaya by Yanaga’s bar program will shine the spotlight on a robust selection of Sake, plus unique signature hand-crafted cocktails, a carefully curated list of wine by the glass and bottles, and a selection of American, Japanese and local craft beer, cider and seltzer. The bar program and cocktails was designed by General Manager Michael Ego, in consultation with Glu Hospitality Director of Beverages Ryan Fenton. In coming weeks, Izakaya’s bar will feature a specialized Highball Machine, for a selection of Izakaya signature Highball selections.
OPENING SAKE SELECTIONS
Izakaya by Yanaga will spotlight and carry a robust selection of Sake, with 10 different varieties at the start including four by the glass and six by the bottle, as well as a rotating selection of “cup” Sake.
OPENING COCKTAIL SELECTIONS
For cocktails, look for hand-crafted signature cocktails that are designed to pair with food offerings, plus a selection of HighBall options. By incorporating the HighBall machine, Izakaya aims to give patrons access to a traditional Japanese classic.
For stand-out favorite cocktails, Yanaga spotlights the Duck Fat Saz, a classic sazerac, using duck fat rendered from menu items to fat wash the rye, giving the cocktail a velvety mouthfeel and a smooth yet smoky aftertaste. Tea Time is also another Chef favorite, with a take on the classic gin fizz, infusing gin with premium Japanese Green Tea. This cocktail is a standout with a mellow Japanese green tea forward taste.
Japanese Rice Vodka, Umeboshi Shrub, Calapico, Fresh Lemon, Bubbles
Junmai Sake, Tequila, Elderflower, Yuzu Juice, Shiso
Japanese Whisky, Alo-e Sibona, Montenegro
Duck Fat Washed Rye, Demerara Syrup, Yellow Chartreuse, Peychauds Bitters
Citrus Shochu, Fresh Lime, Ginger Beer, Togarashi
Hojicha Tea Infused Gin, Ginger and Honey Syrup, Fresh Lemon, ChamomileCharlie Work
Japanese Rum, Antica Formula 1, Campari, Torched Orange
OPENING WINE SELECTIONS
For wines, Izakaya will feature a rotating selection of four reds, four whites and several prosecco offerings by the glass and bottle, with additional higher end offerings by the bottle as well.
OPENING BEER SELECTIONS
Izakaya will feature a draft system featuring six lines pouring Japanese selections, American crafts and locally made selections. Opening menu offerings include:
Allagash White Ale 5.2% ABV.
14oz Draft, $8
Award-winning interpretation of a Belgian-style wheat beer is brewed with oats, malted wheat, and raw wheat for a hazy “white” appearance. Spiced with our own special blend of coriander and Curaçao orange peel, Allagash White upholds the Belgian tradition of beers that are both complex and refreshing.
Asahi Japanese Rice Lager 5.2% ABV
14 oz Draft, $6
Sumida City, Japan
Asahi Super Dry is brewed with precision to very high quality standards, under the supervision of Japanese master brewers. Our Advanced brewing techniques deliver a dry, crisp taste and quick clean finish.
Wyndridge Black Cherry Cider 5.5% ABV
14 oz Draft, $7
Dark sweet cherry juice blended at the tail end of fermentation consists of 100% PA pressed apples, this off dry cider retains the rich flavor of the cherries. A natural orchard’s compliment to the apple, our black cherry cider is a full bodied stone fruit cider with sweet and tart in balance.
Cape May Brewing “The Purp” Tart Grape Ale 5.0% ABV
14 oz Draft, $7
West Cape May, NJ
The Purp is Cape May Brewing’s grape shandy, and it tastes exactly like your favorite grape soda. Like… exactly. It’s sweet, tart, and full of Concord grapy deliciousness. However, when you throw in a 5.0% ABV, you know that this grape soda should be kept far, far away from your childhood.
Firestone Walker “Luponic Distortion” West Coast IPA. 5.9% ABV
14 oz Draft, $8
Paso Robles, CA
Brewed with 100% New Zealand hops, this punchy West Coast IPA delivers bold tropical fruit aromas and flavors of white grape, passionfruit, peach and pink grapefruit.
Sly Fox “Oktoberfest” Marzen Style- Seasonal- Lager. 6.1% ABV
14 oz Draft, $6
Toasty amber malts bring some dark bread, light toffee and brown sugar, with some really nice underlying baking spice notes – nutmeg and allspice, with some bright lemon zest, and some herbal, spicy hops.
Additional beer and ciders will be available in bottles and cans, including a robust selection of IPAs, sour ales, wheat ales, hard seltzers, porters, stouts, saisons, and farmhouse ales. There will also be around a half dozen rotating selection of Japanese beers, including Hitachino, Sapporo, Kirin and others.
VIBE AND DESIGN
For interior design, Glu Hospitality has tapped the creative talents of John Christinzio and Quest Design, who are also hard at work at the same time wrapping work at Figo Ristorante and Figo Pizzeria.
For layout, look for a 25 feet long bar to the left, featuring a stunning polished marble bar top. Behind, look for Sake, wine and spirit selections on wooden shelves made from reclaimed wood. To the right of the bar area look for seating at two and four-tops for a total of 24 seats. Beyond the bar, there is a small corridor that leads to the second dining room for Izakaya. In the second dining room look for 24 additional seats at two and four tops. Tables can be arranged for groups from six to eight, with additional options for 10, 20 and more with advance arrangements. Beyond the second dining room, are two decorative double doors where Omakase by Yanaga is currently under construction.
For vibes, Izakaya aims to create a modern and polished sleek industrial aesthetic that features reclaimed woods, natural and earth tones, dark lighting, carefully placed pops of color, exposed brick, marble top tables and bar, metal working by Taylor Curtis (Curtis Custom Fab) and artwork by local artist/singer Patty Cash.
HOURS AND CONNECT
Hours for this week are Thursday, Friday and Saturday, from 5:00pm to 10:00pm nightly. Hours on and after Thursday, September 9th are Wednesdays to Sundays, from 4:00pm to 10:00pm nightly, and closed on Mondays.