Whether you prefer raw or cooked, fish or fowl, sake or Sapporo, Izakaya Raku can fit the bill.
As the restaurant’s website notes, “An Izakaya is a type of Japanese drinking establishment which also serves food to accompany the drinks” and was traditionally a place for men to gather for beer and sake. However, at this family-run establishment in Grover Beach, those tendencies have been translated into a casual, comfortable atmosphere that welcomes one and all.
With its festive but understated décor, Izakaya Raku offers a respite from its busy Grand Avenue address.
One wall is painted a bright orange, the other is all black but cleverly decorated with several picture frames of various colors. There’s seating at the small sushi bar, or at about a dozen dark wood tables.
Owners Steve and Ying Supina were partners in a Las Vegas sushi restaurant before a visit to the Central Coast prompted them to move here.
Steve landed a job at the already successful Izakaya Raku and was there only a few months when the original owner offered to sell it to him in 2011. The Supinas kept most of the original menu, and bolstered the sushi menu a bit.
In addition to all the usual sushi selections and typical rolls such as California, Rainbow and Spicy Tuna, you can order a Tom Yum with shrimp tempura, seared scallop and squid or the Five Cities no-rice roll with a fish and crab mix on the inside and wrapped in cucumber. (Also, be sure to check out the daily lunch sushi roll specials that are served with miso soup and a house salad.)
If raw fish isn’t your dish, go for a baked lobster roll or even a Surf and Turf of shrimp tempura and thinly sliced seared beef.
In fact, most of the items here aren’t even sushi. As Steve explained, an izakaya menu differs from a sushi restaurant menu in that there are far more items available that are cooked in the kitchen.
Here, the choices are extensive, numbering almost 80. In keeping with the food concept of an izakaya, Steve added that almost all are meant to be shared, akin to a small plates or tapas approach.
Appetizers range from grilled Japanese Shishito peppers to pan-fried gyoza pork dumplings, from marinated Hawaiian-style ahi tuna poke to shrimp tempura, from broiled Shio salmon to the baked Dynamite scallops. Several salads are also available, as are rice bowls topped with grilled eel, a breaded pork cutlet or assorted sashimi.
Ying noted that the ramen noodle bowls are very popular as well. Though there are only four of them — miso, pork, spicy seafood and soy with chicken and vegetable — all taste very different from each other, and can be customized with various toppings such as corn, bamboo shoots or even kimchi (a fermented Korean cabbage).
Yet another option is to go for one of the entrée options that are not only served with rice, miso soup and house salad, but also gyoza, kabocha (squash), tempura and your pick of one of three rolls. Choices include miso black cod, tonkatsu (deep fried pork cutlet), and chicken, salmon or beef teriyaki.
As if all those selections, weren’t enough, Izakaya Raku offers several daily specials besides its wideranging regular menu. Recently, those included green bean tempura, a clay pot with steamed salmon collar, barbecued short ribs served over rice, stir-fried pork with kimchi, seared Cajun albacore sashimi well, you get the idea.
This really is a place where there’s something for everyone!
953 West Grand Ave., Grover Beach | 474-9962 | http://izakayaraku.blogspot.com
Hours: Lunch 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and dinner 5 to 9 p.m. daily
The scene: A comfortable, family-run restaurant with seating at tables or at the sushi bar.
The cuisine: The wide-ranging Japanese menu offers everything from sushi, to beef teriyaki, to ramen bowls; wine, beer and sake available.
Expect to spend: Most items easily under $10, lunch specials start at $8, entrées $15 to $20.