Have you noticed something lately? Izakayas — the Japanese equivalent to the gastro-pub, tapas house, and neighborhood bar all wrapped up into one — are popping up all over O.C.
So many izakayas have opened lately, in fact, that the trend is obvious: Izakaya is the new sushi.
Last year, Takashi Abe of Bluefin fame debuted his Izakaya Zero in Huntington Beach. Then the Wasa Sushi people introduced their Izakaya Wasa at the Irvine Spectrum. And a mere two blocks away from Honda Ya — arguably the grand daddy of them all — Oki Doki opened up its own izakaya in the shell of another Japanese restaurant.
Now another there is another new one in Tustin called Haru Izakaya (at 526 1st St.). Someone tipped me off that it just opened a few weeks ago, occupying a space that used to be a sushi joint (which I can't recall the name of).
And although the name harkens Haru Ulala in L.A. (another acclaimed izakaya), I do not think there is a connection. So far I haven't tried it, but when I looked into its windows while it wasn't yet open for the evening, I saw something at the counter that already earns the place some points.