Iroha has been in business for over 30 years, but about two years ago transformed from a sushi restaurant into a Izakaya. Iroha is on the ground floor above the cellar dwelling Sake Bar Hagi, both of which are owned by the same company. It seems that the rationale for Iroha’s re-boot as an izakaya was to capitalize on the massive overflow of folks who can’t get into Hagi on any given night. There is a note on the menu posted in front of Iroha that says you can also order items of Hagi’s menu. Iroha has more of a sleek cocktail lounge vibe to it that Hagi and has a long bar along one wall, with tables along the other wall.
The Dumplings: Iroha is experimenting with, and pushing the boundaries of, the Takoyaki; they serve Takoyaki with cheese, with spicy cod roe and with sausage and have something they call Russian Roulette Takoyaki, which is an order for four Takoyaki that includes one ball flavored with wasabi. I tried the spicy cod roe Takoyaki, which are a traditional octopus filled ball, drizzled with Japanese mayo, covered with slivered bonito, with dollops of spicy roe on top. The spicy roe had a decent kick but wasn’t overpowering and definitely elevated the Takoyaki. I won’t be surprised if I see this dish showing up on other Izakaya menu’s around town. I didn’t try them on this outing, but according to the waitress, for the sausage Takoyaki they have replaced the octopus with pieces of sausage, while the cheese Takoyaki are the traditional fried octopus balls with melted cheese sauce on top.
I also tried the Ebi Nira Gyoza which are filled with shrimp and leak and come served Fajitas style on a sizzling black skillet. These gyoza look like they were made in house, which is rare for a shrimp gyoza in NYC, and are filled with big, crisp chunks of shrimp and slivered green leaks. They had a more delicate, but fresher taste than your typical processed, MSG’d, minced shrimp Japanese restaurant gyoza, this was an impressive gyoza.
The Dipping Sauce: The gyoza come with a soy and vinegar dipping sauce flavored with a little sesame oil. Nothing special and a little overpowering for the shrimp.
The Location: Iroha is on 49th street between 6th and 7th avenue and is part of a little hub of Japanese restaurants that also include the afore mentioned Saki Bar Hagi and also a Sopporo ramen bar.