Sunday, January 13, 2013

Izakaya Tomo Japanese Tapas Bar- Edmonton, AB

One of the things missing from Edmonton's food scene was a nice Izakaya, a type of Japanese restaurant that specializes in serving alcoholic beverages and appetizers/snacks. With a craze spreading from Vancouver and Toronto with restaurants like Guu, Tomo Izakaya opened very recently in Edmonton on December 9, 2012. Tomo in Japanese means "friend" and their goal is to treat everyone like they would their close companions.

Tonpei Yakki: An egg omelette with shredded pork and cabbage
Since my friends are always up for new and interesting restaurants, we decided to check out Tomo. Calling their restaurant during the afternoon, we were told by the waitress that they did not take reservations as they operate on a "first come, first served" basis. As we entered this small (about 40 seat) restaurant, we noticed a very lively atmosphere as all the tables were full. The decor was very traditionally Japanese, with a lot of wooden decorations and dim lighting. As we waited ~30 minutes for our seat, we were quite astonished to see some tables having "Reserved" signs on them.

Deep fried oysters in Ponzu sauce

Tomo has a wide variety of beers, sake, shochu (sake but distilled), cocktails and teas imported from Japan. This restaurant also serves a variety of Japanese tapas dishes; including: Asian salads, sushi/sashimi, meat dishes, noodles and rice. After looking through the menu, we decided on the Tonpei Yaki, the Chicken Kara Age, the Oyster Ponzu, the Tuna Yakke, the Udon Aglio Olio E Peperoncino, the Mentai Fried Rice, and the Simmered Pork Belly. The Tonpei Yaki is an omelette filled with shaved pork and cabbage and topped with mayonnaise type sauce. Although the sauce was very tasty, the inside of the omelette was quite bland as the cooked cabbage and pork had very little flavor.
Tuna Yakka
The chicken kara age (priced at $7.95), essentially 5 small pieces of deep fried chicken marinated in ginger and soya, was tasty but as my friend stated, "KFC had much better spices" (check out his blog!). The fried oyster dish (priced at $6.95) was served in a nice and light Ponzu (citrus flavored soy sauce) sauce and was one of our favorite dishes. The oysters were lightly breaded and the ponzu sauce added nice acidic notes to the dish. The Tuna Yakke (priced at $6.95) is a Japanese style tuna tartar and fried spring roll chips. The tuna topped with a raw egg yolk was pretty standard but I was disappointed on the very small portion size of this dish. 
Chicken Kara Age

The udon dish (priced at $11.95) consisted of octopus and squid in a buttery bacon sauce. It was seasoned with so much pepper to the point of being spicy, which was actually a good thing as it had a nice kick. However, the udon tasted similar to those of packaged udon bought at any Asian grocery store. The fried rice (priced at $7.95) contained cod roe (aka. fish eggs) and bacon. I enjoyed the dish but others felt the roe was overpowering for their palates. The simmered pork belly (priced at $6.95), which I had been looking forward to, was a disappointment as most pieces contained pure fat. It was easily the least enjoyed dish of the night with leftovers even among five hungry people. 

Udon with octopus and squid
Although the prices were not exorbitant (approximately $6-10), the amount of food you get was quite small, and we left hungry. The service was average at first but seemed to slow down as we had to flag down our waiter to pay the bill. 
Simmered Pork Belly
Tomo is a great place for friends to go for a few drinks and some snacks, but it is not a place to have a meal where you end up full after. For Edmonton standards I would definitely recommend Tomo, but obviously when comparing to the other Izakaya restaurants in Vancouver and Toronto, it still has a ways to go. However, I will be back because it does have interesting flavors and there are not many other choices for Izakaya in Edmonton.
Mentai (fish Roe) Fried Rice


3.5/5 Erics

Izakaya Tomo on Urbanspoon

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