Full Moon fever

Mother’s Pizza and Dharma Sushi team up for a bi-monthly izakaya pop-up, Full Moon.

Ami Goto and Tyson Wachter bring late-night Japanese bar food to Halifax. - JORDAN BLACKBURN
Ami Goto and Tyson Wachter bring late-night Japanese bar food to Halifax.

The tides will get higher, dogs will be howling, cats will be yowling and strange things will be brewing in the light of this month's blue moon. But the most important lunar effect this month will be seen when Tyson Wachter from Mother's Pizza and Ami Goto from Dharma Sushi get together and present Full Moon Izakaya.

Over the past few years, izakaya—Japanese bar food—has become popular in North America with traditional tatmi-floored establishments and dive bars popping up in cities from coast to coast. At 10pm on August 1, after their day jobs end, Wachter and Goto will be up late hosting their first izakaya pop-up at Mother's, late into the night.

"If you go to big cities—New York, LA, Toronto, Vancouver—there is tons of izakaya," Goto says. "Especially Vancouver, since a lot of Japanese people live there. It's an easy concept to explain: It's a Japanese-style pub."

While many izakaya restaurants have countless numbers of dishes on their menu—"almost like a dim sum, where you can have a table full of little dishes," says Goto—Full Moon will be working with very small, tightly focused menus of only around a half-dozen plates. "The concept is izakaya," she says, "but we can't really have a hundred different things: we'd have to hire 10 people! So we just have this very, very small-scale izakaya type of bar. None of the food is too heavy, it's more about snacks."

The snacks are made to enjoy with beer, like Sapporo or Asahi, and sake. "We have been trying to get a few special varieties of sake and shochu in for a few months now but its a bit of a process," Wachter says. "We will be building our list in the next few events."

For this month's event they are pulling from the small sake portfolio available at the NSLC and Bishop's Cellar with Sho Chiku Bai Organic Nama and Premium Ginjo, Gekkeikan Draft Sake and Ozeki Sake. "We will also be serving Ramune and a few different beers," says Wachter. "In the future we have been working on a monthly cask ale and guest bartenders."

One of the dishes you'll commonly find at an izakaya is tsukemono, or pickles. Anybody who has been to a Japanese restaurant will be familiar with gari, the brined ginger served in a rosy clump with a plate of sushi, but there are several other tsukemono: pickled plums called umeboshi; hot pink shibazuke, a biting mix of cucumber and eggplant brined in red shiso; and fukujinzuke, a sweet relish made with a variety of vegetables, including daikon, carrot or cucumber. At the first Full Moon Izakaya, Wachter will be using enoki mushrooms, carrots, daikon and beets.

Karaage, an irresistible deep-fried chicken, is found on pretty much every izakaya menu on earth. "We use chicken thigh and it's marinated with soy sauce, sake, mirin, sugar, garlic."

Yakitori, meat and vegetables that are skewered and grilled, are also common. Goto will be offering up a couple of options at Full Moon. "I'm going to do pork belly and green onion, and one that is vegetables. I'm still thinking about it, but maybe shiitake mushroom or asparagus," she says. "The traditional way is to just use salt and lemon juice. The pork belly is really good done that way. And you can put soy sauce on the vegetable one, but shiitake mushroom has so much flavour on its own. Simple is good."

Checking out Full Moon Izakaya is also simple: when the full moon hits your eye, go to Mother's for something other than pizza pie. This pop-up will be happening every month on the Saturday closest to the full moon.

Full Moon Izakaya
August 1, 10pm
Mother's Pizza, 5710 Agricola Street
Reservations at fullmoonizakaya@gmail.com

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