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.
“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)
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