The word “izakaya” indicates that you’ve stepped into the world of Japanese pub food, which I suppose means that it’s food easily accessible to the average local palate. (Burgers and fries = American pub food, so you get the picture.) Kaname-Izakaya fills that bill, and is very much at home in its International District setting. Judging by the rather extensive list of offerings they seem mostly to be a Japanese restaurant with a little izakaya menu of small plates thrown in for good measure, which I bet really attracts the post-work crowd.
Some of the things we tried on a recent visit during (an excellently-priced) happy hour: deep fried tofu, spicy-sauced and non-spicy-sauced California rolls, beef and potato croquettes, gyoza. Did I mention that we had two orders of the deep fried tofu? Definitely the standout. What I’ll try the next time I’m there: garlic gobo fries, onigiri (flavored rice balls), kushi katsu (pork and onion skewers). I haven’t seen so many items on a menu described as deep fried in a long time; that’s another aspect of what makes good izakaya food, I suspect.
On the drink side, izakaya typically serve what is described as Japanese vodka: shochu. We had ours with Calpis, this odd milky sort of beverage that’s hugely popular in Japan. Certainly on the sweet side, but interesting enough that I could easily picture drinking more than one (and quite happily, thank you). But if that’s not your bag, the standard Sapporo beer awaits.
There are a couple of other places in Seattle that offer small bites in Japanese form, WANN Izakaya and Kushibar in Belltown among them. Though I admit I like the rough-hewn vibe of Kaname and the International District more than the polished Belltown version when it comes to this kind of food. The close cousin of pub grub is street food, and Boom Noodle on Capitol Hill has a good example in their okonomiyaki, a sort of pancake-y affair.
The best thing about all of these is that small plates give you the chance to try all sorts of different things without exposing your inner piglet...