Sunday, December 14, 2008

Review: Izumi

Like the many arms of a hungry octopus, globalization has reached into every corner of our world - even East Passyunk Avenue, which for decades was known more for red-gravy Italian and the odd BYOB than for anything as "exotic" as Japanese food. But a smart newcomer has seized that global octopus and, ever so skillfully, sliced it, popped it on some rice, and created a memorable sushi dining experience. The place is called Izumi (which means "fountain", after the fountain in the triangular patch of pavement across the street, where such culinary luminaries such as Muggsy's Steaks and Iggy's once stood).

Izumi's interior is small but very nice, in that high-class yet serene sushi restaurant way. Our kimono-clad waitress was very attentive on our Sunday night visit, bringing out an ice bucket to keep our beers chilled and popping tops as necessary.

As for the food: Much has been made of Izumi's miso soup. It's more opaque than the average bowl and has a uniquely smokey aroma and flavor. Cubes of silky tofu and seaweed make it an overall satisfying experience.

The seaweed salad is not what you normally get at a Japanese restaurant: rather than the usual chewy thin bands of seaweed studded with sesame seeds, theirs is more of a composed salad of four types of seaweed that each have their own personality, presented with little more than a lemon wedge as seasoning. Subtle and delicate as it was, there's not a lot of flavor going on, and it was not a favorite at the table. Unless you're into seaweed, it's probably not worth the seven bucks.

Seaweed Salad

I was excited to see okinomiyaki on the menu. This Kansai-style "pancake" loosely translates to "whatever you want, grilled". At Izumi, though, there's no choice in the matter of toppings. The pancake was topped with a mayo-based sauce, another sweeter sauce, pickled ginger, and bonito shavings that eerily danced in the wind currents as we waited to eat it. As it was my first time having the dish, I'm not sure how it stands up, but it was decent, if a little mushy.

Vegetable tempura came with two dipping sauces and was crispy and not overly greasy. The sashimi sampler is complex, with each of five offerings complemented by sauce and garnish. The squid served atop a slice of lemon is particularly nice.

Izumi has a relatively small but impressive battery of special rolls. Tops among these was the Paradiso roll, which features lobster tempura and tobiko. There was maybe a little too much sauce on top for my taste, but still tasty overall. A simpler tuna roll felt a little bit lacking - one thing I didn't care for was the soft texture of the nori that it came wrapped in.

Sashimi Sampler

I would classify Izumi as a "welcome newcomer". Not only does it bring more dining diversity to its neighborhood, the food is genuinely good, too, and the BYO policy and reasonable prices keep the tab on the light side. Despite not living particularly close to it, I would happily go back, as I'm interested to try out some of the simpler sushi and sashimi offerings. Maybe I'll even try the tako next time.

Izumi on Urbanspoon

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Food was excellent, but the food was small and way expensive. We both had appetizers, entrees, and shared the gelato, and were still hungry.
If they either lower the prices, or up the portion size, I would return.