Monday, November 11, 2013

First Look: Ittoku!

Ittoku!, which I believe is Boston's first traditional izakaya, quietly opened last Wednesday for a soft opening. They were open until Saturday then closed yesterday to prepare for their grand opening tonight. From here on they should be open daily. Ittoku is a joint venture between Kentaro Suzuki (known to all by his nickname Chiki-san), a former sushi chef at Ebi Sushi, Carlos Garcia, owner of Café Mami and Ittyo, and Manabu Ito and Taiji Mineo, co-owners of Sapporo Ramen.

I made it there today for the first time to take some pictures and eat! I just wanted to get some details up since people have been asking me for a long time when Ittoku would open. I'll write about the food in more detail after I have a chance to go a few times. Check out more photos in the Ittoku! gallery. There are currently some not great photos of the menu (it was difficult to photograph because of the glare), but I should have jpegs in a few days. Update 11/14/13: Menu is here.

For now they'll be open seven days a week from 5pm to 11pm (that's when the kitchen closes). The bar may stay open until midnight some days (possibly only weekends). They're still trying to decide. They hope to open for lunch next year.

There is a large main dining area which includes the sushi bar where there are only 4 seats. Another area has a 4-seat yakitori bar and some additional tables. The bar is in a separate room and seats 6 at the counter and a few more at tables. There are 2 TVs in the bar. The restaurant's official capacity is 98 but Chiki-san said they currently have just over 80 seats. I also saw a couple of high chairs.

Update 11/12/13: Chiki-san has informed me that they have valet parking for $1! If you want to self-park, read on.

When I first told a friend about Ittoku's location, he told me that the parking situation there was terrible. I was really concerned about parking but I went over there twice today and didn't have any trouble, although the first time was at lunchtime and the second time was around 4:30pm. One of my friends arrived around 5:30pm and also report no trouble parking on Warren St.

Ittoku is located at 1414 Commonwealth Avenue in Brighton near the intersection of Comm Ave. and Warren/Kelton St. (the street has different names on either side of Comm Ave.).  There's actually a surprising amount of free parking near the intersection. Some of it is 2 hours Monday through Friday from 8am to 6pm which means it's unlimited in the evening and on weekends. Some of the free parking has no restrictions.

  • Your best bet for parking is likely to be on Warren St. if you're heading towards Comm Ave. (the other side is resident only). After you pass the Brighton Marine Health Center you'll want to look for parking between there and the corner. 
  • There are a few spaces on Kelton St. heading away from Comm Ave.
  • There are a few spaces on the Comm Ave. access road between the corner of the intersection and the restaurant. 
  • There is free unrestricted parking on the other side of Comm Ave. from Ittoku on the access road, but when I drove by in the afternoon it was full. I failed to notice what it was like in the evening. You have to drive down to Allston St. to enter. 
  • There are also a few spaces on Comm Ave. in front of Subwa/Cozmo Market/Harry's Bar & Grill but you have to drive up to Summit Ave. to enter. 

If you fail to find parking in any of these spots, keep driving. There is some unrestricted free parking in front Brookline Liquor Mart just before Scottfield Rd. Metered parking begins at the Joshua Tree after you pass Redford St. and continues past the intersection of Comm Ave. and Harvard Ave., although at that point you'll be walking pretty far. Meters are in effect from Monday through Saturday 8am - 6pm. Please note that on Sundays and holidays, resident parking is not enforced & meters are free.

The closest T stop is Warren Street Station on the Green B Line.

Bacon & Enoki - $3.50

I had previously written that Sho Inoue, former yakitori chef at Yakitori Zai, had accepted a job at Ittoku. Unfortunately, Inoue-san's plans changed and he returned to Japan, so there's another Japanese chef (and a Latino chef) manning the grills. My bacon & enoki was delicious and I also got to try a friend's order of chicken meatballs (tasty teriyaki sauce) and another friend's order of chicken gizzards (apparently I'm not a fan). They have a traditional Japanese grill which they seem to be using mainly for the meats and a back up gas grill on which I saw veggies and yaki onigiri.

Gyukotsu Ramen minus scallions & garlic - $8

I forgot to mention that Ittoku's single ramen offering, Gyukotsu Ramen, is exclusive to their menu (it's not served at Sapporo) and they are serving it this week. I wanted to try the ramen tonight but I got distracted by the Kaisen Don. I saw some other customers get ramen and they looked like smaller portions, which makes sense, given that this is an izakaya. I just wanted to mention it since some people may be expecting Pikaichi or Sapporo-sized bowls.

Kaisen Don - $12

My Meal
I ordered the Kaisen Don (a medium size chirashi ) which was very good - the scallops were outstanding (Update 11/12/13: Chiki-san told me today that scallops will not usually be part of the Kaisen Don. More on this in a later post), one skewer of Bacon & Enoki which was fatty and delicious, and a couple of pieces of tamagoyaki on the house, which is one of my favorite foods. The tamagoyaki is probably the best I've had in Boston. In addition to the yakitori mentioned above, I also got a piece of Anago Oshizushi (delicious) and some Kinoko Butter Itame (mushrooms fried in butter) which was awesome and very, very buttery. Usually this sort of dish is best eaten with beer or sake. My friends seemed happy with their food and we were already discussing what we want to try next time!

Opening Pains
Like any new restaurant, Ittoku still has some stuff to sort out. Their menu is extensive but I heard that some items aren't available yet. They have several dessert options but this week only ice cream is available. My friends and I are eagerly awaiting the Waffles à la mode - Belgian waffles, flan (Japanese purin), and ice cream drizzled with chocolate sauce.

They forgot to order low sodium soy sauce so that won't be in until next week. I also suggested gluten-free soy sauce so hopefully they'll have that as well.

The servers did a great job of keeping green tea and water topped off, but when it came time to pay, we had trouble getting their attention to get our bills and then to have them picked up again. They seem fully staffed, but at times the servers seemed confused about where they should be and what they should be doing or who should be doing what. I'm sure that will all get ironed out in the next month as they learn to work together as a team.

By the time I left at 7pm, the restaurant was almost full, although the bar had only a few patrons. Chances are you'll need reservations on weekends and most certainly for large parties, which they can easily accommodate in the main dining room.

I have a long list of stuff I want to try so I can't wait to go back!

I just noticed that Yelp has their name wrong (probably due to their Facebook page name) - they are doing business as Ittoku and style the business name as ITTOKU! Google Maps inexplicably places them in Weston, though I reported it, so hopefully that will get fixed soon. Here is the right info.

1414 Commonwealth Avenue (the bar is at 1418 Comm Ave. - Update 12/10/13: Last time I went they were using 1418 as the main entrance, probably to keep the cold air out of the main dining room.)
Brighton/Boston, MA 02135
Tel: (617) 396-8420


  1. thanks for this. not so easily accessible from where i am across the river, but i'll try to make it out there by t soon. that kaisen don looks really good.

    1. Yeah, the location is a bit inconvenient for those of us who live on the other side of the river, but it was worth the trip.