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Wednesday, Nov. 23, 2011

Izumi's New Menu Filled With Flavor

Milwaukee's go-to place for superb, authentic Japanese food

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Since its founding in 1988, Izumi's has grown into a Milwaukee institution. Tatsuya Goto and Fujiko Yamaguchi, both natives of Japan, took over in 1993 and made sure that Izumi's stayed true to the Japanese concept of dining. In December 2003, the restaurant moved to its current space, a larger location in a vintage Art Deco building.

I recently visited Izumi's because I was curious about its new Japanese lunch buffet. As it turns out, even more changes were afoot, as Izumi's has a completely revamped menu. Teriyaki and tempura dinners and small plates are in. The small plates are listed as "hot" and "cold" plates. There are many new items to explore, including salads, soups, noodle dishes, "special dinners" and a few "konro" items cooked on a tabletop grill. Don't worry: All of the nigiri and maki sushis are still on the menu, and the lunchtime menu remains the same.

It is a relief to still find hamachi kama ($13) on the menu. This is a grilled collar of yellowtail snapper served with lemon slices and daikon radish puree. Chopsticks are the ideal utensil to use when eating this fish with a fabulous flavor. Hamachi is also great raw.

Order the nigiri sushi a la carte ($6), a serving of two pieces. Izumi's sushi is very fresh, and the slices of fish are ample. Another new addition is raw oysters ($6), served three ways. The Japanese version is three oysters on the half-shell flavored with a bit of ponzu and momiji oroshi (grated daikon with a hint of chile pepper).

For a surprising delight, try su miso tako gai ($9), a salad of octopus, seaweed and cucumber. The slices of octopus are very tender—not what you ordinarily find with octopus.

Konro ebi ($8) is six grilled shrimp, perfectly cooked and served with an interesting condiment, a salty powder the color of wasabi. Also be sure to order the bibimbap nasu ($6), a vegetarian dish featuring thin strips of Japanese eggplant with cheese served over short-grain rice in a cast-iron skillet. Chili miso flavoring adds richness. This is like a Japanese version of risotto.

Hiya-yakko ($5) is utter simplicity. Pieces of tofu are dusted with bonito flakes and served over lettuce in a glass bowl. There are sides of chopped scallion, ground ginger and soy dipping sauce.

Tempura remains on the menu in the form of small plates. The priciest ($8) offers five pieces (shrimp, squid, octopus, Japanese yam and eggplant). For something meatier, try the karashi ae ($7), thin slices of quickly seared tataki beef. It is served with blanched spinach and mustard teriyaki sauce. The slices of tender beef nearly melt in your mouth. This is superb quality at a modest price.

Do not expect the dishes to arrive in any particular order; they are served immediately after their individual preparation. As for the lunch buffet? I never made it past the new menu.

The menu provides an opportunity for the Japanese owners to showcase their heritage. Dining at Izumi's means finding an authentic meal.

Izumi's

2150 N. Prospect Ave.

(414) 271-5278

$$-$$$

Credit Cards: All Major

Handicap Accessible

Izumis.com

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