Izakaya, a popular style of restaurant in Japanese culture that serves a menu of small plates meant to be enjoyed with friends over drinks, has grown quickly in popularity in the West. Bushido Izakaya is just one example why.

With a casual setting in downtown Mountain View, the restaurant serves an extensive list of unique and traditional Japanese bites and sustainable sushi. A never-ending menu of dishes can lead to difficult decisions at Bushido, which makes it especially helpful that drinks and friends are part of the plan. The extensive spirits menu features a variety of sake, a staple of the original izakayas—the name translates to a compound word consisting of “i” (to stay) and “zakaya” (sake shop). A playlist of relaxing and rhythmic instrumentals keeps the atmosphere playful and casual.

There is no real method to ordering at an izakaya restaurant, but on a recent visit I found what I thought to be the greatest hits of this style of dining. We started with the age nasu ($6.50), which consists of several halved and fried Japanese eggplants served in a pool of sweet and savory soy sauce. Being an eggplant fan is no requirement to enjoy this dish. The sweet soy sauce and creamy texture of eggplant tastes nothing of the typically bitter vegetable. Next arrived an unassuming braised pork belly bun ($7.50 for two) made with the highly prized kurobuta pork from a black berkshire pig. If Kobe is the pinnacle of beef, kurobuta is the equivalent luxury to pork. The buns came with a generous slab of the incredibly tender, sweet and savory pork complemented by crisp, pickled cucumbers.

Yakitori ($5 for two skewers), a staple of Japanese cooking, are simply various animal parts that have been skewered and expertly grilled over charcoals. Traditionally popular selections are often foreign eats to Westerners, such as hearts and gizzards, but something as simple as grilled chicken thighs manages to be a special treat. If you want to branch out from chicken but perhaps aren’t ready for skewered hearts, the beef tongue is incredibly tender and tastes similar to any other traditional cut of beef.

On the sushi and sashimi menu, a selection of appetizing rolls and sashimi plates will please any connoisseur or casual sushi fan. A staunch advocate for sustainable fish, Executive Chef Isamu Kanai presents an impressive and thoughtful menu. A favorite dish of the night here was the seared albacore toro ($18), which was generously dressed in a vinaigrette of sweet and zesty ponzu sauce with pungently sweet chili garlic oil.

Bushido Izakaya
156 Castro St., Mountain View. 650.386.6821