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A Japanese izakaya dinner party menu

A Japanese izakaya dinner party menu

by Great British Chefs 06 November 2017

Izakayas are where you'll find delicious little bites of the best Japanese food. Here's how to take the flavours and turn them into a fun, colourful dinner party menu at home.

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We’re only recently starting to get to grips with just how many different types of cuisine Japan is home to here in the UK. Sushi is what we first think of, but then there’s those warming bowls of ramen, light and airy tempura, high-end seasonal kaiseki tasting menus and the fast, delicious dishes served in izakayas – Japan’s answer to bar food.

For a dinner party with a difference, there’s no better cuisine to choose than Japanese. Always beautiful, always full of flavour and always full of interesting ingredients, it’s a guaranteed crowd-pleaser with plenty of opportunities to impress. And with more and more Japanese ingredients becoming available in the big supermarkets, it’s never been easier to put together an authentic menu.

Scott Hallsworth is a chef known for his izakaya-inspired food, throwing together high-end Japanese techniques and ingredients with fun, playful, ‘junk food-esque’ flair. His three recipes take the foods we know – sashimi, fried chicken and crème brulée – and make them even better. If you’re looking to really wow at your next dinner party, serve these up and inject a bit of fun into the evening.

Cocktail

First things first – you need a cocktail that’ll set the tone for the evening. Sake never gets the attention it deserves in the UK; it’s still a bit of an unknown and splurging on a bottle of top-quality stuff can feel like a risk when you’re not sure if people will enjoy it. But by incorporating it into a cocktail with more familiar flavours, you’re able to serve something unmistakably Japanese that everyone’s sure to love. Dried apricots, vodka, elderflower liqueur and tonic water all come together with a good splash of sake to create a refreshing start to proceedings.

Starter

Here’s a starter that’s bound to elicit a few gasps at the table – and once your guests taste it, they’ll be even more impressed. It might look like a pizza, but the base is in fact a crispy tortilla, topped with slices of raw tuna, fresh chilli, truffle-spiked ponzu mayonnaise and spoonfuls of jewel-like wasabi-flavoured tobiko (flying fish roe). Tobiko can be bought online or in many Japanese food shops, but if you’re struggling to find some it’s fine to leave it out. The beauty of this dish is that, after you’ve made the mayonnaise, it’s nothing more than an assembly job, giving you plenty of time to entertain instead of slaving over the hob – the whole thing takes just twenty minutes to prepare.

Main course

What is chicken-fried chicken, you might ask? It’s probably one of the most delicious ways you can cook poultry. Chicken legs are submerged in chicken fat and confited for several hours, before being left to cool and given a final deep-fry before serving. Chicken fat can be hard to come by, but duck fat is a great substitute (although that would technically make this dish duck-fried chicken). As you can probably imagine, this results in some seriously tasty meat, which is cut through with some pickled cucumber and a sweet, sticky sauce full of chopped roasted peanuts. Everything for this can be prepped in advance – the only thing you’ll need to do on the night is give the chicken its final fry and warm through the sauce.

Dessert

Ah, the crème brûlée – a dinner party stalwart. There's no denying it's delicious, but serving up the classic dish doesn't have quite the same wow factor as it perhaps used to. However, Scott's amped up version throws a few raspberries into the mix, lending a sweet, tart note to cut through the rich vanilla custard, and the addition of coconut snow (a granita made from coconut milk and cream) adds a cooling, refreshing element that transforms this dish into something completely new.

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