Introducing Azasu: Casual Japanese Fare on Clinton Street

The owners of Yopparai open an izakaya featuring serious drinks and comfort food.

Owners Christy and Gaku Shibata

Owners Christy and Gaku Shibata

Two years after opening Yopparai on Rivington Street, Christy and Gaku Shibata are debuting a larger, more casual Japanese restaurant just around the corner at 49 Clinton St. Azasu soft-opened this week and officially launches on Sunday. While Yopparai is more of a formal sake bar and restaurant, Azasu is meant for groups to share and enjoy multiple rounds of food and drink.

“This place is more like a fun place,” Gaku said.

Tomato and cucumber salad

Tomato and cucumber salad

Named for an informal, slang term for “thank you,” Azasu features a menu of small plates designed to be shared tapas-style while enjoying a range of Japanese beverages. Pork or tofu dumplings ($6/five), cold salads ($6-$8) and sandwiches on soft white bread ($7-$9) join a selection of larger plates such as rice and noodle dishes. There are lots of options in the fried department: boneless chicken, pork and beef meatballs, potato croquettes and french fries–as well as a nanban, a Japanese play on fish and chips.

“When I get off work, I want to eat something fried,” said Gaku.

This frosting machine chills glasses to 27 degrees for serving.

This frosting machine chills glasses to 27 degrees for serving.

The beverage program includes a wide selection of cup sake, individually packaged glass jars. Azasu is the the first NYC restaurant to offer rice wine in that format, which is commonly dispensed from vending machines throughout Japan. The restaurant has also installed a special frosting machine to chill mugs down to 27 degrees before they are filled with Hoppy, a light malt beverage, which is then accented with shots of shochu, the traditional Japanese spirit distilled from wheat, potatoes or brown sugar, which is also available as a frozen cocktail. Drinks also include a selection of Japanese beers ($7) and whiskeys ($12).

There are 20 varieties of cup sake, ranging from $7 to $19 each.

There are 20 varieties of cup sake, ranging from $7 to $19 each.

The frozen yuzu shochu cocktail.

The frozen yuzu shochu cocktail.