It wasn't too long ago that Japanese dining in Canada could be tidily summed up as an expensive night of teppanyaki or a meal of mixed sushi. Just over a decade ago, however, a new kind of Japanese food quietly began establishing itself on the Vancouver restaurant scene. Neither elaborate and mannered nor wrapped and portable, this new dining experience was boisterous, flavour-packed and wildly interesting. Just like in Japan, these first Canadian izakayas served delicious small plates designed specifically to go well with sake, beer and cocktails. Fast forward some 10 years later and the Japanese pub has caught on in a how-did-we-getalong– without-izakayas kind of way. From Vancouver, the trend has spread eastward, bringing its brand of casual pub fare with it. The movement has grown to include ramen houses and, more recently, yakitori joints, which specialize in grilled, skewered meats. It's a style of cooking that is easily – and deliciously – adapted to home entertaining.
Gathered from some of the best izakaya chefs around the country, the five recipes here require little more than an exploratory grocery shop and a sense of adventure to pull off. After that, all that's left to do is lay in a great selection of sake or Japanese beer and shout Irasshaimase! (Welcome!) as your guests walk through the front door.