Wikipedia defines izakaya as “’I’ (to stay) and ‘sakaya’ (sake shop) – a sake shop that allows customer to sit on the premises and drink.” If you’re going to stay and drink, you’ll need some food too. In Japan, yakitori or kushiyaki (both words used for “grilled skewered meat”) is the food of choice. Since old times, yakitori was made with the lesser desirable parts of the animal – intestines, heart, liver, stomach, etc. Nowadays, you’ll find chicken breast and filet mignon. There is artistry to making the skewers. The meat is dressed and artfully skewered, basted with a sauce or just salted, and then grilled over hot coals.
Thomas Shin and Sylvia Lee wanted to bring authentic Japanese cuisine, craft sake, draft beers, and people together in a trendy and casual atmosphere. On March 28, 2014, they opened Dami Sushi & Izakaya in Buena Park’s new Village Circle on Beach shopping center. The shopping center is similar to Diamond Jamboree in Irvine – lots of Asian restaurants and shops. The restaurant space is cozy with booths, tables, and sushi bar. The menu was created by Executive Chef Jun Kim and Executive Sushi Chef John Yoon, along with culinary experts Chef Yoshihiro Matsumoto (owner and head chef of Sakura House in Marina Del Rey) and Joanne Chung (international menu consultant and food stylist).
Miso Soup is a traditional Japanese soup with clear stock called dashi. Miso paste is mixed in with green onions, seaweed, and cubes of tofu. Dami’s version is served traditional-style in a chawan. I would add a couple more cubes of tofu for texture, but the flavor is on par. Thumbs up!
Dami has fresh oysters on the half shell. You can pick from Eastern and Pacific oysters. The Pacific oysters are meaty and velvety. The mignonette sauce works the best with these oysters by balancing out the briny flavor and bringing out the natural sweetness of the oyster. During happy hour, you can’t beat the price! Thumbs up, way up!
Chirashi is assorted chef’s choice fish over rice. If you love bowls of rice with meat on top, chirashi is the ultimate bowl. Main staple fish served on top are maguro (tuna) and sake (salmon). Other fish that might be included are tai (red snapper), saba (mackerel), ika (squid), tako (octopus), tamago (egg), and kamoboko (decorative fish cake). Dami’s version is beautifully presented with a good mix of seafood. The wasabi is artfully piped. There is a Korean twist to this traditional dish by adding pickled garlic. It is really good with the raw fish. In between the layer of raw fish and sushi rice is furikake (rice seasoning with dried seaweed, sesame seeds, salt, and sometimes dried egg.) The only thing I didn’t care for was the stick of surimi. I would replace it with a few slices of kamaboko or just leave it out completely. Thumbs up, way up!
Hāto (chicken heart) Yakitori is beautifully cleaned chicken hearts, cut in half, basted with tare (sauce made from mirin, sake, shoyu, and sugar, similar to teriyaki sauce), and grilled over Binchōtan charcoal. You can tell that the heart was fresh and cleaned very well. It doesn’t have the mineral taste that normal poultry organs have. It almost tastes like beef. The heart texture is tender and pairs well with the tare. Thumbs up, way up!
Sunagimo (chicken gizzard) Yakitori is beautifully cleaned gizzard, cut into medallions, lightly salted, grilled over Binchōtan charcoal, and spicy green sauce is artfully dotted onto the meat. The charcoal imparts a nice smoky flavor to the gizzard which gives it a more robust meaty flavor. You can still tell it’s a gizzard from the slightly crunchy texture of the meat. Thumbs up, way up!
Rebā (chicken liver) Yakitori is beautifully cleaned liver, basted with tare, and grilled over Binchōtan charcoal. The texture of the liver is velvety. This also does not have that mineral taste. I think this would pair better with just salt instead of the tare. The tare made it too sweet for my taste. I was brought up on liver being savory and this was not agreeing with my taste buds. Thumbs up!
Quail Egg Yakitori is perfectly hard boiled quail eggs that are skewered. I love the lightly charred outside. The yolk is rich and creamy. Thumbs up, way up!
Teppanyaki Beef is choice tenderloin grilled to order with fried rice and grilled vegetables. The beef is very tender, but would request to have it cooked to a rare/medium rare next time. The fried rice was colorful but was very bland. It definitely needed a little more shoyu during the stir-fry process. The vegetables were also grilled a little too long as they were mushy in texture.
Torikawa (chicken skin) Yakitori is skewered, lightly salted, and dotted with spicy green chile pepper sauce. This is like Japanese chicken chicharrón with just enough spicy heat to complement the fatty flavor of the chicken skins. I wanted to order more! Thumbs up, way up!
“A wide array of dishes and flavors” await you at Dami Sushi and Izakaya!
- $1 Oyster Happy Hour – Every day from 5pm to 7pm and 9pm to 11pm
Atmosphere: 5 out of 5 stars
Décor: 5 out of 5 stars
Service: 5 out of 5 stars
Food: 5 out of 5 stars
For more information:
Dami Sushi & Izakaya
5151 Beach Blvd Unit A
Buena Park, CA 90621
Hours: Monday through Sunday from 11:30am to 3pm and 5pm to midnight