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Kaikaya

Review excerpt: Sometimes, though, we don’t want refined. We want bustle, noise and laughter filling the air, and honest no-frills provender. Whenever that feeling hits, then we know it’s time for another pilgrimage to Kaikaya.

For hardcore fans — and they are legion — this is the ultimate izakaya. They love the scruffy, unkempt look, the laid-back vibes, the cheerful welcome. You sit on low stools at basic wooden tables. The walls are plastered with two decades of Polaroids of carousing customers, along with pin-ups of fish and assorted marine life.

A surfboard hangs under the ceiling. It belongs to the master of the house, owner-chef Teruyuki Tange, who’s been out riding waves since the 1970s. He opened this unique izakaya back in 1988, as a way to dovetail his twin passions, cooking and the ocean. “Kaikaya by the Sea” he calls it: If you can’t make it down to the coast, then he brings the coast — together with its laid-back lifestyle — in to the city.

But there’s plenty more to Kaikaya’s popularity than just the warm welcome and party vibes. It’s based on the basic virtues of good, hearty food — including plenty of excellent seafood, shipped direct from the fishing ports of Nishi-Izu — plus a fine selection of sake and shochu. The fully bilingual menu is a major plus for the foreign community, and everyone loves the very reasonable prices.