The Japanese Art of Cuisine : Katsuya Uechi

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 The health benefits of the Japanese diet are quite plentiful, due to many of the natural ingredients.

Much thought and inspiration goes into the creation of a restaurant. Themes, décor, menu, and location are just some of the components one must address in preparation for the various stages of development. Upon partnering with Sam Nazarian’s SBE and Phillipe Starck, our Katsuya Restaurants in Hollywood, Brentwood, Glendale, and downtown L.A. have taken on a life of their own. When I opened my third location, Izaka-Ya by Katsuya, in 2007, I was inspired by the concept for which it is named. Translated, Izakaya means “to remain” (i) and “sake shop” (sakaya); today it is commonly known as a Japanese pub. Izakayas began popping up throughout Japan in the Edo period (1603 to 1863), which is considered the start of the country’s early modern era. It was an age of relatively peaceful stability guided by Neo-Confucian principles of social order. During this time, the izakaya developed as a standing-bar-only sake shop. The evolution of the concept resulted in tapas being served to accompany the sake.

Today, the concept has become a popular international trend, and it is quite fashionable with the younger generation of diners. In addition to being on top of the trend, I created Izaka-Ya by Katsuya because I wanted to give customers incredible, quality food and sake at a reasonable price. We feature more sake selections and a wider array of menu items than what can typically be found in a traditional Japanese or sushi restaurant. Keeping in line with the tapas tradition, the menu is designed in a small-plates format so customers can enjoy many varieties of dishes. The menu items can be separated into four categories: traditional Japanese, typical Japanese izakaya, original, and Okinawan style. Gobo chips are a good example of the Japanese izakaya category, while tofu champuru (stir-fried vegetables with tofu) fits with the Okinawan flavor. I choose to include local Okinawan influences on this menu because it is a population known for exceptional life longevity-a characteristic attributed to diet.

The health benefits of the Japanese diet are quite plentiful, due to many of the natural ingredients. For example, I use a salt that can only be found in Okinawa called Aguni no Shio. It is all natural, sourced from the clear water surrounding the Aguni Island and produced the old-fashioned way without the use of chemicals. It is filled with beneficial minerals from the surrounding coral reefs and is full of flavor. Another favorite of mine is the Okinawan lime, also known as shekwasha. I use it when preparing the white fish carpaccio dressing and the romaine salad with sautéed mushrooms. It contains much-needed antioxidants and presents an incredible aroma that even rivals yuzu.

Because the traditional izakaya began as a sake shop, at Izaka-Ya by Katsuya, careful consideration of the sake selection is essential. My creation, Katsu-Ya original sake, can only be found on the menu here and at my other SBE/Katsuya restaurants. The medicinal benefits of consuming sake (in a moderate amount) are numerous, as it aids in the fight against, cancer, arteriosclerosis, osteoporosis, cardiovascular disease and can help decrease fatigue. Also making an appearance on the beverage menu is Awamori, another Okinawan specialty drink. It is made from rice, but instead of being brewed, it is distilled in a method similar to shochu. The earthy beverage is rich with nutritional benefits, boosting thrombolytic enzymes. A wide variety of shochu cocktails and specialty drinks appear on the menu as well. Some of my favorites are the citrine-flavored cocktails because of their light and refreshing nature. Of course, in addition to my signature Katsu-Ya sake, my previously mentioned SBE/ Katsuya locations offer a wide variety of exotic beverages created by our specialist in mixology.

Overall, I designed Izaka-Ya by Katsuya to be an inviting restaurant with a casual atmosphere suited for friends and family, just as the traditional izakayas were. Through the customers’ enjoyment and the success of the establishment, I pay homage to the ancient customs of my ancestors.


Katsuya Uechi
Izaka-Ya by Katsuya
8420 W 3rd St.
Los Angeles, CA 90048

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