Tenpai is an unexpected treat. A mugi shochu, which from previous experience we’d expect a light, neutral flavor like Yokaichi or a rich, sweetly whiskey note like Kannoko if aged in oak barrels. Tenpai defies both of those expectations.
Name: Yuki Izakaya
Style: musical izakaya
Address: 525 Frenchmen Street, New Orleans, LA 70116
Phone: (504) 943-1122
Website: Facebook Page
Japanese food probably isn’t the first thing that springs to mind when you think “New Orleans”. In fact, it’s probably not the second or third or fourth, or really anywhere on the list. It wasn’t on mine either, but I have a habit of googling “izakaya” in whatever city I happen to be planning on visiting. A recent trip to New Orleans afforded me a visit (2 actually) to Yuki Izakaya in the French Quarter. It’s a bit off the beaten path on Frenchmen, which isn’t a quiet street by any means, but isn’t near the frustratingly busy Bourbon Street.
Walking past the graffitti’d walls of a recently closed latin bar, you see the sign for Yuki. The immediate surprise is the live music emanating from inside. That shouldn’t be a surprise in New Orleans, but it is from an izakaya. Inside there’s a tiny “stage” (end of the bar) where artists perform live music every night of the week. One night it was a middle aged Japanese woman singing jazz torch songs, another night it was an elderly Jewish accordion maestro.
On a wall over the bar Japanese movies are projected silently. Ghibli anime, hard boiled yakuza noir, samurai duels. It’s a nice visual distraction from the auditory input.
The space is small. A few bar seats and a few tables tucked next to the bathroom. The bathroom wall paper is an ode to pulpy Japanese cinema with movie cards ranging from lesser Kurosawa to 1970s sexploitation.
Draft beer, bottled beer, sake, shochu, and Japanese whiskey. You can get just about everything here. As the only izakaya in a 450 mile radius (there’s one in Atlanta), it’s surprising how they manage to get a dozen different shochus on the menu. It apparently sells as well since there was an entire shelf behind the bar devoted to bottle keep – if you’re planning on going back more than once during your visit (or if you live there) I recommend this form of drinking.
Staple Japanese izakaya fare from edamame to kara-age (fried chicken) to salted grilled squid. The sauteed mushrooms are a must-try along with the hamachi kama (grilled yellowtail neck). There may not be anything that sets your world on fire or changes the way you look at food, but that’s not how izakayas usually function. This is a place to enjoy good music, plentiful drinks, and some fun visuals while nibbling on small dishes meant for sharing. Unfortunately, the venue is too dark for viable food photography. You’ll just have to check it out for yourself.
The Verdict: Recommended.
If you find yourself in New Orleans (you should) and you tire of Creole and Cajun food (you might), wander over to Frenchmen for some authentic Japanese izakaya in an interesting setting with some fun music.