Where to Izakaya Ittoku, a new Japanese restaurant in Brighton.
What for Unlike many restaurants that claim the title, Ittoku hews to the true izakaya spirit. It's a place to drink sake and beer while snacking on reasonably priced yakitori (skewers of chicken and other ingredients), sashimi, and much more. The menu features dishes rarely seen in these parts, from omusoba (fried noodles wrapped in an omelet) to ochazuke (rice with broth and toppings) to takoyaki (fried octopus balls).
The scene Formerly occupied by Petit Robert Bistro, this is a big restaurant, with several dining areas. Featuring brick walls and amber lighting, it is decorated with red lanterns and red banners that say "yakitori" in Japanese. Sake bottles are on display, and in the back a chef wields a sharp knife, preparing skewers of chicken. Groups of friends converse in Japanese as a J-pop soundtrack swells dramatically.
What you're eating There's ramen on the menu, but that's easy to come by these days. Why not try okonomiyaki instead? Sometimes referred to as Japanese pizza, this Osaka-area specialty is an eggy pancake filled with cabbage, pork, and more, drizzled in Worcestershire-esque sauce and topped with bright red shreds of pickled ginger.
Care for a drink? Ittoku offers beer such as Kirin and Asahi, and nonalcoholic selections like Calpico soda and Ukon no Chikara, a hangover remedy. But this is more of a sake bar, with five cold varieties and one hot served by the glass. There are sake cocktails in flavors such as green apple and grape. The bottle list is geared toward beginners, with varieties grouped by which foods they pair well with — chicken, beef, raw fish, or fried things. Just order accordingly.
Overheard The youthful staff members yell the traditional welcome each time a customer comes in: "Irasshaimase!" "Where would you like to sit?," one asks a new arrival. "We have a sashimi bar, a skewer bar. . . . We just opened a week ago Monday!" At a table, a server advises customers about sake, with an impromptu language lesson. "That one is dry; that's what that means in Japanese." "One, two, three, cheese," a woman tells her boyfriend as she takes his picture with a fancy camera. "Wow, you drank that really fast," says a waitress coming to clear a patron's sake glass. Customers try to figure out what's what on a plate of yakitori. "That's chicken skin," one man says. "It's really crispy." From the kitchen comes the sound of knives being sharpened. A couple dickers over who gets the last bite on the plate. There's only one fair way to make the call. "Rock, paper, scissors," they chant, then let fate decide.
1414 Commonwealth Ave., Brighton. 617-396-8420.