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Izakaya Night: Japanese Street Food and High-End Drinks in Heritage Square

Arizona Sake will be centrally featured at Izakaya Night.
Arizona Sake will be centrally featured at Izakaya Night.
Chris Malloy

This Friday, March 6, you might want to swing by Izakaya Night 2020 in downtown's Heritage Square. The event will run from 7 to 11 p.m. and showcase a spread of compelling vendors and beverage professionals. They’ll pour, char, bun, and tempura-fry delicacies for you to enjoy under cherry blossoms and paper lanterns. The food will be Japanese street food, and the event has the booze options to match.

There will be sochu. Plum wine. Still sake. Sparkling sake. Beer. And various Japanese spirits, including the some of the country’s renowned whiskys, like Yamakazi 12, the headiest stuff poured in a VIP area.

The main attraction on the liquid end will be Atsuo Sakurai of Holbrook’s esteemed Arizona Sake. Sakurai, who makes this sake in his garage, will be leading tastings and a class. In addition, he’ll be opening a fresh barrel of sake. Sakurai, one of Arizona’s most masterful artisans, usually doesn’t make many public appearances in greater Phoenix. This should be a prime chance to try his latest batches and soak up some sake wisdom.

Generally, Izakaya Night’s food and drink vendors look very carefully considered, appealing not only to hungry passerby, but people deeply into food and drink culture. Izakaya Night has been organized by the folks who have produced PHX Night Market, Foodie Bowl, So Good Film Festival, and, coming in April, Hawker Street Market.

A small group of promising food vendors will be slinging eats for the night in Heritage Square. The list includes Japanese vendors like Tempura Takeover and OkonomiYuki, each with many offerings on deck, as well as non-Japanese spots like Deez Buns and Toduken BBQ, which will lean heavily toward Japanese for the night. (Note: According to the organizers, Toduken plans to grill a secret off-menu chicken skin yakitori.)

To complement all that food and booze, there will be a few classes and side events, like the session led by Sakurai. There will also be a raffle for a bottle of prized Yamazaki 18 whisky.

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Another event worth your time: a session piloted by John Christie, who has the awesome title of director of whiskey over at Grey Hen, the bottle-shop arm of Century Grand stocking more than 500 versions of the brown spirit.

General admission costs $45, which includes 10 drink tickets. If you need more velocity, you can lift off with added drink flight options.

For tickets and more information, see the Izakaya Night website.

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