Izakaya Ginji

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Takoyaki – a ball-shaped snack cooked with diced octopus and batter made of wheat flour.

Izakaya, according to Wikipedia, is a type of “Japanese drinking establishments that also serve food.” It’s really a type of restaurant/bar with tapas-style menus and usually good selections of shochu, beer, and sake. In Japan, it is a common hang out place with friends or colleagues at the end of a day.

Izakaya Ginji is in the heart of downtown San Mateo. For happy hour, we would start with a few yakitori (skewers) dishes. These yakitori plates are made to order, and the chefs are masters in incorporating the perfect amount of fanning (to control the heat, humidity, and smoke) and seasoning. You can expect nothing less than perfectly moist and flavored skewers.

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Chicken with green onions.

I will admit. We’ve often gone overboard with the orders. Everything is delicious on the yakitori menu here.

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Buta Kimchi Carbonara (stir-fried udon with black pork and kimchi)

Ginji also has a tasty selection of non-yakitori dishes. In the picture above, we had a unique rendition of yaki-udon. To my surprise, the creamy sauce from Carbonara mixes well with the black pork and kimchi. The udon noodles are savory with a little bit of tang from the kimchi, and the creaminess covers the opposite spectrum on our palates and forms a nice blend. Mmm!

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Traditionally, you would end such a meal with a rice dish. While there are many variations such as a rice bowl, rice porridge, rice ball, or plain steamed rice, we’ve opted for Ochazuke. Ochazuke is a soup bowl with cooked rice and savory toppings. In our case, we had salmon flakes with dashi broth.

My personal go-to drink at an izakaya place is umeshu (Japanese plum wine), which I picked up while living in Tokyo. My partner goes for the citrus shochu. Here at Izakaya Ginji, the lemon shochu comes with a squeezer and a glass of distilled liquor, so one can have the freshest squeeze mixed in the drink.

What are some of your favorite happy hour dishes or drinks?

Izakaya Ginji
301 East 4th Ave (corner of B St. and 4th Ave)
San Mateo, CA 94401
650-348-1110
Hours (closed on Tuesdays)

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