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Get to Know the Gastown Izakaya Giving Vancouver’s After-Hours Scene Exactly What it Wants

The name “Izakaya” comes from three Japanese characters that literally translate to “stay-drink-place” – essentially defining it as a place to wind down while enjoying the glass of wine/sake or ice-cold beer that you need after a long, pressure-filled day of work. Likewise, the typical Izakaya food menu features various tasty, quick and unfussy items designed to pair with your hard-earned drink. That’s the beauty of the Izakaya: its uncomplicated, come-as-you-are relaxed approach to dining.

It’s no wonder then that Gastown’s Oku Izakaya is quickly carving out its niche as the go-to spot for hospitality folks looking for a post-shift destination to chill and decompress. With its doors open until the wee hours of morning (Tuesday to Thursday and Sundays until 1am, and Fridays & Saturdays until 2am), Oku offers something much needed in a city that’s not exactly known for its after-hours scene or late night dining options.

In addition to its hours and spot-on concept, Oku has a lot going for it, starting with its 2 Water Street location’s expansive windows, which afford guests a view of the Maple Tree Square brick plaza where Alexander, Powell, Carrall and Water Streets come together. Inside, the restaurant’s open kitchen invites diners to engage with the chefs (and each other) in a way that fills the room with a pleasant chatter of voices – loud enough that you can feel natural striking up a casual conversation with the people seated beside you, but not so loud that you have to strain to hear your own thoughts (thank eff-ing god).

The food menu is a brilliant mix of traditional Izakaya dishes (think Shishitos; Vegetable Kimpira; Tuna Tataki; and Spiced Chicken Karaage) and more innovative dishes (Red Tuna with Blue Cheese; Kelp-Marinated Beef Tartar; and Yellowtail with Wa-Chimichurri Sauce) along with a selection of sashimi, hand rolls, and traditional Nigiri sushi. To drink, Oku offers a carefully selected line-up of Japanese and local beers, plus Japanese whiskey and sake; as well as a tight trio of cocktails: Creamy Matcha (gin, Lillet, matcha syrup, lemon juice & egg white), their Signature Sake-tini, and a Wasabi Caesar.

But beyond the food and drink, it’s the legit, imported Japanese Izakaya culture and ambiance that seem to be resonating with Vancouverites the most – and this drop-in, relax-and-have-some-fun attitude starts with Oku’s gracious and energy-packed host, Takeshi Hasegawa, who has a knack for making guests feel at home the instant they cross the Izakaya’s threshold.

Don’t take our word for it, though – take Oku for an after-work, nighttime (or anytime) spin yourself! Hours are: Tuesday to Thursday and Sundays from 5pm-1am; Fridays and Saturdays from 5pm-2am.

Oku Izakaya
Neighbourhood: Gastown
2 Water St.

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