Chotto, a Japanese Izakaya, is a relative newcomer to the Marina food scene having been around for only a little over a year.  But if you haven’t discovered this gem yet, you’re missing out.  Traditionally, an izakaya is a Japanese drinking establishment with samplings of food and small bites to go along.  Order a dish here and there along the way while you drink until you’ve had your fill ….both the menu and service are set up at Chotto to fit this traditional izakaya experience perfectly, allowing you to linger and socialize while satisfying your hunger at intervals that suit your fancy.

So, first things first for an izakaya….the drinks.  As expected, Chotto has a great sake menu.  If you’re new to sake, the sampler is a perfect way to start off.  They give you enough to share between two people if you want to use it as a way to decide which larger sake to order for the table.  One of our favorites though, is the cold unfiltered Ozeki Nigori…cloudy in apperance with a deliciously complex flavor.  Somewhat nutty while also a bit sweet with a slightly creamy finish.  Divine and pairs so well with all of their food, especially from the raw portion of the menu.  While we don’t typically venture into the cocktail portion of the menu, friends always seem pleased with their unique concoctions…all either shochu (distilled liquor, similar in taste to vodka) or beer/wine based.

Now, onto the food….honestly out of the few times we’ve been to Chotto not one single dish has missed!  Chef Armando Justo creates a nice mix of authentic Japanese dishes for the traditionalists combined with lots of fun, inventive plates for those looking for something new.  Their quality of their seafood is top notch and makes me wish that they had a sashimi platter on the menu.  But alas, this is not a sushi joint, it’s an izakaya…and like I said, whether you order from the raw bar or get a few skewers or a salad or noodle soup, you really can’t go wrong.  We tend to go with the smaller dishes so that we can try and share as many as possible.  The only one I wouldn’t order again are the gyoza (dumplings)…while they are good they’re pretty standard and I think you’re missing out on Chef Justo’s unique talent with these.  A few of our more recent favorites below:

Uni Hotate: Hokkaido scallops, sea urchin, shiso, olive oil & tamari soy $12 for 4….this one gives me a food-gasm every time.  The scallops melt in your mouth with that deliciously decadent sea urchin layered between the slices, heaven on a plate.

Chotto Spicy Ramen: spicy miso tonkotsu broth with fresh ramen, pork and an egg if you so desire.  You all know that I love me some noodle soup…and this is one of the best I’ve found. Next time you’re not feeling well  or in need of some comfort try this out instead of the old chicken noodle soup standby…I promise it will become your new pick-me-up dish!

Sweet Potato Donuts with Black Sesame Ice Cream: Holy lord, this ice cream is to die for!  For someone like me where a little bit of sweetness goes a long way this is the perfect ending to a delicious meal.  The ice cream has a nice subtle nutty taste with a very distinct black sesame seed flavor.  The sweet potato donuts are good as well, but honestly once I had the ice cream I forgot all about them!

So next time you’re craving some good Japanese food, branch out beyond your stand-by sushi place and head to Chotto.  A top-notch, affordable and fun izakaya right here in the Marina.  If you do check it out, let me know what you think!