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The basement Japanese whiskey and soju bar at Izakaya Ronin will serve hot, late-night food from 9 p.m. to 1 a.m.
Ryan Dearth

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Forget Speakeasies: Welcome to Denver’s Underground Japanese Whisky Bar

Wait till you see Izakaya Ronin’s boiler room-turned-bar and late-night Japanese food stop

Though it may look like a speakeasy, there isn’t any special way to get into Izakaya Ronin. The new Japanese fish, small plates, and whisky bar from the owners of the eponymous sushi restaurant is serving up a raw-casual menu on its main floor and a cooked-casual one in its underground bar. And even though the first entrance is somewhat hidden on the side of RiNo’s Industry building, and the second entrance is actually hidden down a dining room stairwell, you can still just walk right in — no passwords, no handshakes, and no knocking.

That’s the way Izakaya Ronin’s owners envision their speakeasy-leaning bar, which they hope will become an easy late-night dining and drinking destination, sans all the pretense, starting this weekend.

The upstairs restaurant at Izakaya Ronin serves sushi, rice bowls, small plates, noodles, and an omakase tasting menu, just like at Sushi Ronin, only in a setting that feels less special-occasion and sticks to the new surroundings — all concrete and wood. Once downstairs, though, Izakaya Ronin’s real wow-factor sets in. The former basement boiler room has been transformed into Ronin’s take on the Japanese “moguri izakaya” or speakeasy pub.

Touches of Japan in Izakaya Ronin’s basement whisky and soju bar
Ryan Dearth/Eater
<span data-author="7916">Izakaya Ronin </span>
The basement bar at Izakaya Ronin is open from 9 p.m. to 1 a.m. Wednesday through Saturday
Ryan Dearth/Eater Denver

“It’s a little more sexy than the izakayas I’ve been to in Japan,” admits chef-owner Corey Baker of the new space. “For Denver, this needs to be sexy, but that doesn’t mean that it can’t be totally casual,” adds business partner Alex Gurevich.

With the help of bartender Dusty O’Connell, who formerly did “everything but bartend” at Williams & Graham, Izakaya Ronin’s basement will become a late-night Japanese whisky and soju cocktail stop. For the lineup, beverage director Joshua Beausang has picked out an extensive selection of whiskies, including a rare Yamazaki Sherry Cask blend ($350 per shot) and a private Izakaya Ronin Maker’s Mark blend.

Baker is preparing a different food menu for the basement late-night crowd, offering fried gyoza and tempura ($6 and $12), skewered chicken and wagyu ($3 to $10), and a laman tonkatsu ramen for only $10. And if anyone needs a good reason to eat Japanese food late at night, this would be it. Last month, Baker won a Denver-wide ramen restaurant showdown as a late-to-the-game contestant with this particular bowl. It’s got fried chicharron (crackling) and pork belly, chile crisp, and a soft egg, and it will be served from inside a whisky-stocking boiler room all winter. Really? What more could one ask for?

Status: Izakaya Ronin is officially open at 3053 Brighton Boulevard, on the northeast side of the Industry building. Find the restaurant serving dinner from 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday, and the underground bar serving drinks and food Wednesday through Saturday starting at 10 p.m.

(All photographs by Ryan Dearth)

Downstairs seating for late-night diners
Ryan Dearth
The original boiler room walls have been preserved
Ryan Dearth
Basement bar seating at Izakaya Ronin
Ryan Dearth
Whiskies and sojus are the house specialties at Izakaya Ronin
Ryan Dearth
Table settings at Izakaya Ronin’s basement bar
Ryan Dearth
The upstairs dining room at Izakaya Ronin
Ryan Dearth
Izakaya Ronin’s sushi bar
Ryan Dearth
Izakaya Ronin’s sushi counter
Ryan Dearth
Izakaya Ronin’s minimalist-casual dining room
Ryan Dearth
Sit upstairs for a casual sushi dinner or head down to the basement for late-night Japanese bar food
Ryan Dearth

Izakaya Ronin

3053 Brighton Boulevard, , CO 80216 (303) 953-1602 Visit Website
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