Izakaya, best explained as Japanese tapas, has gained increasing popularity with Western diners, particularly in Los Angeles and New York City. The cuisine is characterized by a meal of small plates best enjoyed with friends alongside generous amounts of beer or sake. In the South Bay, GocHi Japanese Fusion Tapas has two locations that provide a wonderful Izakaya experience.

The original Cupertino location has a strong following, making for a crowded dining room almost every evening. A second location has opened in Mountain View along Castro Street and offers the same flavors and experience which have attracted so many to GocHi. The dining room is close to packed on a weeknight. Any online reviews, as well as the restaurant’s website, make note that reservations should be made a week or two in advance or be prepared for a lengthy wait for a table. With good fortune I was able to have a table in the early evening just by calling earlier the same day.

GocHi, as with similar Izakaya restaurants, is best enjoyed with friends or business colleagues where a group can order an array of different plates. Dinner for two (which I experienced) is just as enThe menu has just a bit of everything from carpaccios and sashimis, braised, grilled, steamed or fried vegetable and meat dishes, as well as clay pots and fusion pizzas. The shareable dishes range from around $5 to $8 to upwards of $16. The bill floated around $45 for each person for seven dishes that left us both comfortably full.

For the best experience at GocHi, start your meal with a drink from their selection of sakes and other beverages. In addition to traditional sakes, GocHi also prepares shochu cocktails. The lightly flavored rice spirit is mixed with soda water and fresh fruit juice for a refreshing palate cleanser. I ordered the shochu cocktail with grapefruit, which came with a fresh grapefruit half and juicer, for a make-your-own refresher.

A good strategy for approaching GocHi’s menu is: cold dish such as sashimi or carpaccio to start, salad course, a fried dish followed by a braised dish and finish with another sashimi. The textures and flavors unique to Japanese cuisine paired with the entertainment of discovering small plates with friends make GocHi a memorable dining experience.

For cold dishes, the Hamachi carpaccio ($16.50) is a perfect start: beautiful segments of the fish drizzled with a garlic-ginger-ponzu vinegar sauce and garlic oil with minced jalapenos. The tender, oily fish is perfect for the zesty citrus vinaigrette. Additionally, the mackerel sashimi ($10.50), which has a velvety, tender texture and slight ocean flavor was a great end to the meal. Favorite fried plates, which are centerpiece to any izakaya establishment, included the soy-marinated boneless chicken ($7.50) and shrimp balls with an incredibly savory dashi dipping sauce ($8.50). The fried mushroom risotto balls ($9.50) with a shiso-pesto-tomato sauce were incredibly rich, oozing with creamy cheese and topped with a sweet and salty sauce. The dish showcases creativity in fusion small plates.

My hands-down favorite dish was the pan-sauteed black cod fillet in a plum soy sauce ($16.50). The fillet had a perfect crispy outer skin in contrast to the flaky, buttery texture of the fish. The plum soy was also a beautiful contrast of sweet, sour and salty flavors.

GocHi’s massive menu allows for a new adventure with each visit and the daring question, “What should we try this time?”


GocHi Japanese Fusion Tapas

19980 Homestead Rd., Cupertino