Suppose you want to unwind after a long day at work. In that case, one traditional option is to go for “nhậu,” - which involves sitting at small eateries with tables on the sidewalk, enjoying affordable draft beer called “bia hơi” and a variety of snacks. However, the drinking culture in Vietnam has been evolving rapidly, and a new trend that has become increasingly popular in vibrant cities like Hanoi is the “izakaya.”
So what exactly is an izakaya? In Japanese, it is written with three kanji characters that translate to “stay,” “sake,” and “shop,” and it is essentially a Japanese-style bar that serves alcohol and food. Izakayas are informal venues where many go for a drink after work with colleagues or acquaintances, such as a Spanish tapas bar or a British pub.
The distinction is that izakaya serves genuine home-cooking meals rather than just snacks, making it the greatest venue to learn about traditional Japanese dishes and sake. Although it is acceptable to strike up a conversation with strangers, most Japanese people prefer to keep to themselves.
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Similar to “quán nhậu” in Vietnam, izakaya provides a variety of dishes that are frequently shared between the group. Chicken karaage (Japanese-style fried chicken), yakitori, edamame, gyoza, fried rice, grilled fish, french fries, sashimi, sushi, nabe (Japanese hotpot), and salads are typical foods. While Izakaya translates to “dine-in sake store,” it also sells a variety of other drinks, including domestic and imported alcoholic beverages like beer, cocktails, and shochu, as well as non-alcoholic choices.
If you're in Hanoi and interested in checking out an izakaya, here's a list of five different styles with their own unique settings to cater to everyone's preferences.
Located in the prestigious Capella Hotel in Hanoi, Koki's private chambers, small living hall, and innovative sake parlor are all tastefully arranged. Enjoy the exclusivity of Hibana's renowned Chef's Table, where chefs take inspiration from a wide range of delicacies cooked with passion and flair right in front of your eyes. Their quality izakaya dining experience is combined with a quiet Teppanyaki setting that is excellent for many special events.
Koki expresses luxury through intimate places and service gestures that are not always visible but indisputably felt by all senses.
They also have a Bar called Akio - a sake library that offers a variety of uncommon and exquisite sakes from well-known brewers, meticulously picked to reflect a wide range of types but all with one thing in common - polished quality. Izumi by Koki, their trademark sake, is brewed especially for Akio visitors.
Address: Basement 1&2, Capella Hanoi
Opening hours: 11:30-13:30 and 18:00-22:00 (last order 21:30)
Tora - which means “tiger” in Japanese, has tremendous meaning to the team. The year of the tiger is the year the eatery was established, and its logo is a funky resemblance to a “mini tiger,” a phrase that Vietnamese use to call a cat.
Aiming to become a “Multi-style Asian eatery,” Tora Tora wants to become a cozy izakaya where people can have a fun conversation and enjoy delicious food at an acceptable price.
Their bar snacks and alcohol items are diverse, from different skewers to innovative plates and even fancy Wagyu feasts. Like the melt in the mouth wagyu tartare with spicy miso sauce and creamy Japanese egg or their special 28-day butter-aged striploin steak. Some of the bar’s creative cocktails you should try are Tora Sour featuring Shochu and red wine or the Tora with mushroom, butter, and Vietnamese robusta coffee-infused whisky. Their Highball list is also one of the must-tries.
Tora Tora uses a classic red color theme from the walls and the silk curtains to the doors since red symbolizes luck, happiness, and comfort in Asian culture.
Address: 21 Hang Bom, Hoan Kiem
Opening hours: 18:30-23:00 Tuesday - Thursday | 18:30-24:00 Friday - Sunday
Izakaya Hanzo is a Japanese restaurant nestled in a little alley on Linh Lang Street in the heart of Ba Dinh district. They serve traditional kushiyaki, which refers to grilled meat or vegetables, on a skewer. From toriwasa - chicken sashimi to pan-fried seafood or hotpot, you may sample both odd and familiar cuisines from the land of the rising sun here.
They also offer private dining rooms for company or family groups and a broad food selection paired with wines to ensure you have the finest unique experience.
Address: 50/20A Linh Lang, Ba Dinh
Opening hours: 18:00-3:00
JAZ, which stands for “Joy from A to Z,” is a modern izakaya that brings a cheerful vibe to Bui Thi Xuan Street with its lively atmosphere and creative fusion dishes.
JAZ's cocktail menu and selection of Japanese alcohol are thoughtfully crafted to complement the exquisite flavors of their dishes.
Although the restaurant is not particularly spacious, its intriguing black color scheme and minimalist interior design add to its charm. Soft yellow lighting illuminates the dishes, highlighting every detail of their presentation.
Address: 55 Bui Thi Xuan, Hai Ba Trung
Opening hours: 11:00-14:00 and 17:30–22:00
Kanko, situated in the bustling heart of Hanoi Old Quarter, is a popular hangout spot for the city's young and lively crowd. The restaurant's menu offers an extensive selection of Japanese bar snacks, dishes, and even Sake cocktails.
At Kanko, you can enjoy a spacious environment filled with lively DJ performances and impressive stage settings. The vibrant neon lights add to the excitement, ensuring that you'll have a thrilling night out.
The spot is also famous for its different mini-games or drinking games, such as beer bomb or “one grab edamame” to spice up the night.
Address: 25 Ly Thuong Kiet, Hoan Kiem
Opening hours: 12:00-24:00 Monday - Saturday