t Ifuku Isaribi, a restaurant specializing in grilled Japanese food, one of the first dishes that arrives barely looks grilled at all. It’s a cube of cheese that’s been given the briefest pass over a flame, turning it edges brown and dotting it with char. But the first bite is deeply savory, followed by cream and a lick of smoke, tasting virtually like seared foie gras. If you’re squeamish about goose liver, environmentally or otherwise, this makes for a perfectly decent substitute.
Located on the fifth floor of Plaza 66, Ifuku Isaribi is an offshoot of Ifuku, an izakaya on Xintiandi’s Taicang Road. The word Isaribi, or 渔炎, means fishery in both Japanese and Chinese, and seafood forms the backbone here. There’s an entire menu dedicated to sashimi, crispy puffer fish skin and zingy wasabi octopus make up an assortment of small bites called Selection of Drunk Food, and fresh abalone is delicately grilled until it’s juicy and tender. Even breaded pork skewers are topped with sea urchin and fish roe.
Another specialty is their cured meats. The restaurant dries them overnight on sticks before barbecuing them, and the black throat sea perch is a highlight, tasting intensely of the sea and is incredibly buttery. That dish is ¥480, but cheaper cuts such as cod (¥168), greenling (¥128), and squid (¥48), as well as beef and chicken (both ¥58) are available.
But don’t pass on the red meat. A Wagyu beef sushi, so oversized it drapes entirely over the rice, is torched table-side until the air is rich and nutty, then melts away with the first bite. Grilled beef intestines, when dunked into an accompanying egg yolk, are crispy, chewy, fatty, and sweet. Dessert is plain crackers that you smear homemade cream cheese and honey on, a dish so luscious, smooth, and deceptively simple, but mirrors what Ifuku Isaribi is all about.
Ifuku Isaribi 井福渔炎
11:30am to 2:30pm
5:30pm to 10pm
Unit 501, Plaza 66, 1266 Nanjing Xi Road
Nearest metro station: West Nanjing Road
[Photos via Ifuku Isaribi]