Izakaya Fu Ga’s Lunch Might Not Be Traditional, But It’s a Deal
What’s there not to love about a proper Izakaya? Copious amounts of beer, sake and shochu to wash down plates of yakitori (chicken on a stick), karrage (fried chicken), and other assorted Japanese dishes that are too big to be considered snacks, but too small to be considered entrees. And the best part is, they don’t rush you… so you can spend hours and hours eating and drinking, drinking more and eating more. In other words it’s more of an after work thing, which is why most traditional izakaya don’t even open until after 5pm- although here in L.A. it seems like that word might be used more for hipness, than to describe their bar/restaurant accurately.
So when I first read about the lunch menu at Izakaya Fu Ga, a new “Izakaya” that opened recently in Little Tokyo, I had mixed emotions. If they’re open for lunch, they couldn’t possibly be a truly traditional izakaya- right? On the other hand, their lunch specials looked kind of awesome… and they were all around $10. “Authenticity” (whatever the hell that means) be damned! I had to check it out.
Sushi has always been a tough sell for Midtown Lunch. Sushi is all about the quality of the raw fish, and unlike some ingredients which can be improved by good cooking- with sushi you get what you pay for. So while technically you can find maki lunches for under $10, most of them are 2 roll combos… and to be honest, for lunch I’m a 3 roll kind of guy. And sadly, you usually just can’t get that much sushi or sashimi for under $10 (and if you could, you probably wouldn’t want to eat it.) Izakaya Fu Ga solves this problem by pairing a single cut roll with other, more filling (and cheaper) dishes. For $10 you get your choice of roll (there are 14 to choose from) plus one entree (shrimp/vegetable tempura, chicken karaage, teriyaki, fried calamari, mini udon, or a house salad) and a miso soup.
For our first combo we went crunchy dragon roll (shrimp tempura roll with “crab” and avocado, topped with spicy tuna) + karaage. There is nothing wrong with dropping a couple of hundred bucks on untouched raw fish of the highest quality, but there is a part of me that also enjoys the mayo filled goodness of spicy tuna. Throw it on top of a shrimp tempura roll, with a squirt of teriyaki sauce and spicy mayo, and you’ve got a winner! Spicy, crunchy, creamy, sweet… what more could you want? And they weren’t skimpy either. I could easily see this 8 piece roll costing $10 on its own at some restaurants. The karaage it came with was as disappointing as fried chicken can be (that’s to say, it tasted fine and we ate the whole thing- but it definitely could have used some seasoning, or at least a dipping sauce!) Although in fairness to Izakaya Fu Ga, after eating Chin Ma Ya’s karaage topped tan tan men a few weeks ago, their version didn’t really stand a chance.
For our second lunch special we went rainbow roll and shrimp/vegetable tempura. With options like baked scallop roll, spider roll, and eel roll available I wouldn’t normally order a rainbow roll, but in this case I felt like it would give us an idea of how good their raw fish was. Verdict: cheap (naturally) but decent for the price. In other words, if you’re used to eating cheap sushi lunches you will be totally fine with this place. You could complain that the fish was amateurishly sliced, but at least it was clearly sliced in house by a real human being… rather than some of the pre-sliced weirdness you get at some cheap sushi spots. As for the tempura, it was at the same level as the karaage (fine but not particularly flavorful)… and since there was already shrimp tempura in one of our sushi rolls, we regretted not trying the chicken teriyaki.
The soup that came with the lunch special was not watery at all, which is the best you can hope for in a $10 lunch special.
In addition to the $10 lunch specials, there are a few “meal” type lunch specials that are mostly under $10. We couldn’t help but try the “char broiled 21 days aged premium ribeye steak”. An aged ribeye for $10 seems a bit too good to be true, but it was surprisingly decent. Putting aside the bad wedding food look of the plate, the steak itself was pretty tasty. Because it was sliced so thin (it was only about 1/2″ thick) it was more towards medium than medium rare, but it was plenty juicy (you might say the secret ingredient is beef fat!) and very very tasty. I didn’t really care about the potatoes and veggies, so next time I might order it in sandwich form. I’m sure you get less of the steak, and it’s still $9.75… but they give you french fries. In fact, I wonder if they’ll give you fries instead of the potatoes and veggies on the lunch special. That would be awesome.
The one cool (and semi-authentic) thing about Izakaya Fu Ga is its subterranean location. There’s a street entrance on San Pedro btw. 1+2nd, just to the right of the entrance to the parking garage. But if you take advantage of the free validated parking, finding the restaurant is a little trickier. So much so they felt the need to include step by step instructions on their website… with photos. Amazing.
All in all Izakaya Fu Ga is a decent lunch option for those who work in the area, and are looking for quantity and variety for their $10. It may not be a proper izakaya (and those who are hoping for that, will definitely be disappointed), but if the idea of chicken teriyaki and a crunchy dragon roll for $10 sounds exciting to you- you’ll be a big fan.
THE + (What somebody who likes this place would say)
- A big sushi roll, plus an entree and miso soup for $10!? Sounds pretty awesome to me.
- How can you beat a lunchtime ribeye for $10? Answer: you can’t.
- I love sushi rolls that have tempura or baked scallops or eel in them.
- I’m not a Japanese food snob. Give me teriyaki chicken and a california roll in a nice setting for $10 and I’m a happy camper…
THE – (What somebody who doesn’t like this place would say)
- No yakitori? Sorry, not an izakaya.
- Just another generic Japanese spot for white people
- There are plenty of better lunch specials in Little Tokyo
- Sure you get a lot of food, but the karaage was bland, and the tempura was nothing special
- I’d rather pay the extra $$ and get good quality sushi
Izakaya Fu Ga, 111 S San Pedro Street (btw. 1+2nd), 213.625.1722