One weekday evening I had dinner with an American friend who has lived in NYC for over 10 years. He had just returned from a 6-month assignment in Tokyo, and I was curious as to what type of food he had in mind. We ended up meeting at Union Square where he suggested Village Yokocho, an Izakaya style restaurant in the Little Tokyo section of the East Village.
This was my first visit to Izakaya in the United States. An Izakaya is typically a casual place where office colleagues and college students gather after work/school to drink sake or beer and munch on a variety of Japanese snacks. When I was studying and working in Tokyo, I generally went to izakaya at least twice weekly. These places are great, because competition helps to keep the prices down and the quality of food/service up. And I was curious what the experience would be in NYC as compared to back home.
In my opinion the atmosphere in Village Yokocho seemed very much like Izakaya in Japan except that it is non smoking — which is an extremely good thing for me. The choices of sake and food were very similar to that in Japan, and the same was true for the portion size. One cool thing I saw here was young couples on dates — which is a huge contrast to Japan where Izakaya is probably the last place couples would choose to meet for romantic evening. But an interesting international experience nonetheless!!
Price: $8-$15 per item with several pages of choices
Neighborhood: Little Tokyo, East Village
Dress code: Casual
Dining alone: No concerns, very comfortable