Before LoHi had Sushi Ronin and Bamboo at Avanti, Hong Jian Lee, who operates East Moon Asian Bistro & Sushi in Westminster, had his eyes on the neighborhood for a Japanese restaurant. The Hong Kong-born restaurateur was the original tenant slated to occupy the Sushi Ronin space, but passing on that lease that did not deter him from pursuing a venture in the growing area. "We changed our concept somewhat since our first attempt to open in LoHi," Lee shared. "Mizu now is a traditional Japanese izakaya but we kept a sushi component because we know that is familiar to diners. Classic izakayas don't have sushi; they are a second home for the Japanese working people who visit them for a drink and some food bites after work," he continued.
That second home aspect is paramount to the design and vibe at Mizu. The space is welcoming, gently broken into separate areas: an imposing yet inviting bar, a few low seating lounge-style tables, some bar stools with corresponding high tops, and dining tables and chairs that include booth-style seating. An amber-hued light dominates the room that features warm wooden elements throughout, and cool accents that further endear the diner to the new venue like the mural that lives to the right of the entrance.
The menu at Mizu is expansive. There is a raw bar and salads, a binchotan (Japanese charcoal grill) section, a ramen and donburi section, plus items broken up into sautée, fried, and grilled. There are classics like the chicken kara age, the agedashi tofu, and the tonkotsu ramen, but also dishes that bring a modern twist like the ramen salad and the creamed pork kimchi.
Lee was very serious about all aspects of the drinking program. "An izakaya is best described as a drinking house. The drinks come first, the food complements the drinks," he explained. He enlisted bartender Nate Maston to consult on the cocktail selection and master sommelier Sally Mohr to curate the saké and wine list. Beer is also a major part of the menu and local is the focus of the tap system.
For now, Mizu is open for dinner only.