Las Vegas can’t seem to stop guzzling down bowls of ramen, clamping our chopsticks around sushi or nearly impaling our cheeks while gnawing sustenance from skewers. Throw in some sake or a Sapporo and life is good. So it shouldn’t be a surprise that people are finally discovering the izakaya (pronounced ee-ZAH-ka-ya). Think of these casual restaurants as a marriage between a tapas bar and pub, where friends can grab drinks and share a range of inexpensive small plates. Spirited chatter and lingering into the wee hours is strongly encouraged. Here are some spots perfect for fulfilling the dual desire to get plastered and pig out.
It would take more time than you have to inspect the multitude of menu items affixed to every inch of wall space. Stick with the yellowtail tartare, an East-meets-West concoction resembling a sandwich of fried chips, rice, salsa, avocado and raw yellowtail. For large groups, head to the back of the room for the traditional zashiki seating on the floor. 4355 Spring Mountain Rd., Suite 205, 367-3151, IchizaLasVegas.com.
Kyara Japanese Tapas
Expect an ear-shattering “Irasshaimase!” (“Welcome!”) when entering this intimate den. While your liver may loathe you, this place keeps it real by offering a mind-numbing selection of sake, chu-hai, shochu, wine and beer. To help soak up the libations, opt for the pork kimchi, enoki bacon skewer and ika, tender rings of grilled squid slathered in butter. 6555 S. Jones Blvd., Suite 120, 434-8856, KyaraIzakaya.com.
While staples such as hiyayakko (cold tofu with ginger and scallions) and kara-age (deep-fried chicken cubes) dot the menu, sample the fresh sushi and sashimi; ask for the more nutritious haiga rice. If meat isn’t your thing, try the vegetarian/vegan sushi rolls or noodle dishes. And be sure to say hi to Chico, a shigaraki tanuki (badger or raccoon dog) statue intended as a good-luck charm. 500 E. Windmill Lane, Suite 165, 834-2779, MikoSushiLasVegas.com.