December 11, 2022

Kevin Yanaga opens Izakaya by Yanaga, a Japanese restaurant in Fishtown


After renowned chef gigs at sushi destinations such as Zama, Pod and Double Knot, Kevin Yanaga has his own place in Fishtown, taking over the old Aether with Derek Gibbons and Tim Liu of Glu Hospitality.

Izakaya de Yanaga (1832 Frankford Ave., just off Berks Street), which will be joined in the fall by an omakase room, is in soft opening mode. There’s a limited izakaya menu of raw and cooked items, and a bar stocked with cocktails, sake, and wine, and six beers on tap (including the Asahi rice lager). Yanaga’s menu will influence drinks as well, as in the Duck Fat Saz cocktail, a classic sazerac using rye washed with duck fat extracted from menu items.

The ambiance of Izakaya is dimly lit but energetic at the bar and at the table in the front room. The intimate omakase room will be located behind decorative doors at the far end.

Yanaga, born in California but raised in Japan, began professionally cooking at Kawasaki before returning to the United States. His second in the kitchen is Tom LoMonte, most recently at Zama.

Recommended: short rib curry bao, ika fries (it’s the squid and shishito pepper combo), and all raw dishes, including chirashi and maki. Two mazemen, ramen without broth, are on the opening menu.

John Christinzio and Quest Design worked with the 25-foot bar, topped with polished marble, opposite 24 seats in arrangements of two and four. Beyond the bar, the second dining room seats 24 people, with seating available for large groups.

During the first weeks, places are only accessible without an appointment. OpenTable will take care of the reservations afterwards.

Liu and Gibbons from Glu Hospitality, incidentally, have been experiencing a development tear as of late, particularly in the nearby Northern Liberties. They are a few weeks away from the opening of Figo Ristorante and Figo Pizzeria in the former Wahlburgers of the Piazza, near their new Bagels & Co store.

Glu operates Leda & The Swan and Vesper in the city center, as well as Vesper Dayclub, Germantown Garden and its side restaurants, as well as two ghost kitchens, Hunnies Crispy Chicken and Tiny’s Burger Joint. Glu is also a partner of Anejo Philadelphia and SET NoLibs, both located along Northern Liberties’ row of restaurants on Second Street.

Hours: 5 to 10 p.m. on Sept. 3 and 4 and 4 to 10 p.m. from Sept. 9 to Sept. 12. As of Sept. 15, it goes from 4 p.m. to 10 p.m. Wednesday to Sunday. Later this fall, happy hour, lunch and weekend brunch will be part of the extended hours.