Yuzu Izakaya is one of the latest additions to Koreatown North. Open since May of this year, the pub like Japanese restaurant focuses on what's fresh and seasonal as the head chef makes his way to his favourite fish markets, butchers, and produce providers each morning to select what looks best. The payoff is that each month Yuzu rolls out a new, seasonal menu and whips up various drink specials that work well with the food. Sake lovers should also take note they have 25 different varieties on offer.
Inside, the bamboo curtained booths work well with large groups but on this night my lone dining companion and I carve out space along the chef's counter to watch the kitchen work their magic.
We start with the Salmon + Natto ($7) which is a tasty textural experience. Served with salted konbu, bonito flakes, cucumber, onion, and quail egg, the fish is then mixed up and eaten in mini seaweed wraps. Everything except the natto itself is made in house.
One of the daily specials, Karashi Kurage ($12), is a jellyfish and vegetable salad with sliced apple and sinus-opening Japanese mustard that offers up an excellent balance between sweet and spice.
Another superb starter comes in the form of elegant little Gomae bundles - blanched spinach, yellow beans, tomato, black sesame paste and crispy fried leeks. It's light, fresh and fantastic for summer.
Seeing how they smoke their Wara-yaki over the flaming straw is about as much of a treat as eating the delicate fish itself. Served with thinly sliced garlic and Norwegian smoked Viking salt, each of the pieces is paired with a different micro green.
Skewers ($3) of flank steak with kalbi sauce and green onion, soft pork neck with sweet teriyaki sauce, and supremely flavoured chicken with sweet chili sauce are all worth ordering again.
The unquestionable winner of the evening, though, is the creamy pork belly ($15). Slow braised over 2 days, served over top of velvety sweet potato puree and swimming in its own juices, it evokes a powerful flavour and buttery texture that are to die for.
Yuzu Izakaya's menu is extensive, as are our appetites, so we order up some juicy fried quail ($7) served with aromatic herb salt containing savoury spice, tarragon and chive.
Next are scallops and mushrooms ($13) with a sake-butter sauce that I could spoon onto just about anything.
And for those who just can't decide - or who know exactly what they like - the okonomiyaki ($9) provides a new bit of wonder with every bite.
Many of the items we order on this night should still be on the menu for most of August but expect to see a variety of new meat and fish offerings come fall.