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3469 Park Avenue, Tel.: 845-8226

Prices: moderate
Went to Isakaya on a frigid November night. It’s owned by a former chef from Katsura, so that’s always a plus—nothing beats Japanese service at a Japanese restaurant. It’s another long room (aren’t they all in Montreal?) with a sushi bar on the right side and somewhat uncomfortable tables down the left. I guess these are supposed to be bistro-style—to me, they’re just uncomfortable.

The service is excellent. Although the first server I came across wasn’t Japanese, our main one was. The menu is mainly standard Montreal Japanese, but they actually have Okonomiyaki (kind of like a Japanese seafood pizza.) There’s the usual teriyaki this-and-that and a good selection of sushis, as well as an unusually large selection of udons and ramens, which is admittedly not usual in the old-school Japanese places in Montreal. Must be the influence of these new noodle chains.

I asked the server if the sushiman (in this case owner Shige Minakawa) could make me a tekkyuumaki (maguro and cucumber) and he happily complied. One at our table ordered the hamachi dinner, and received practically an entire fish on a bed of lettuce. A Japanese herself, she seemed to be happy with it, though there were no amazing standouts for anyone. One of us had the kitsune udon, which has a fried bean curd topping (named “fox” for the Shinto sprite whose favorite food this is,) another had ramen and I had the filet mignon teriyaki.

An appetizer of gyôza (potstickers) was quite good and not greasy. The tekkyuumaki were dry and not particularly fresh-tasting, and were rolled extremely tightly—I personally prefer a looser, larger roll. The kitsune udon was pronounced “maa-maa” (so-so) but my steak was perfectly cooked to medium-rare and was not unduly drenched in the usual sweet Kikkoman stuff.

They had very good draft sake (namazake) which was properly served cold, and the service was quick and polite. Dinner for 4 with sake, beer and appetizers came to about $120 not including tip. I’d give Isakaya a 5 out of ten. —
Reviewed by Nicholas Robinson

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