In 1940, thousands of Sacramento’s Japanese residents were forced into internment camps, and what was once the fourth-largest Japantown in the state began to wither away.
Today, Sakura Gifts and Osaka-Ya remain visible reminders of what Sacramento’s Japanese community lost. But, perhaps, the neighborhood will experience a renaissance fueled by efforts from local Japanese-Americans, such as Craig Takehara and Tokiko Sawada.
In March, the husband-wife duo opened Binchoyaki in the space formerly occupied by Doughbot. It’s the truest izakaya-style restaurant in Sacramento—lively and unique, with an appreciated mix of tradition and innovation. Multigenerational Japanese families fill up the small space on a nightly basis.
“Bincho” refers to charcoal and “yaki” means grilled in Japanese. The owners import binchotan charcoal from Japan for their open-flame grill, which sits prominently near the restaurant’s center. The best seats in the house are at the bar, with a clear view of the action. Once seated, you’ll get three menus: one for plates from the kitchen, one for skewers from the grill and one for drinks. There’s Japanese beer, sake and shochu.
All of the grilled items I tried were expertly cooked, with the tare sauce adding a nice sweetness but not overpowering the natural flavors of the meat—or the charcoal. Of particular note: the rich and juicy duck, dotted with sharp wasabi cream ($6); the medium-rare salmon loaded with salty salmon eggs ($6); the saba with shatteringly crispy, smoky skin ($7); and the yakionigiri ($1.50), a triangle of rice with delightfully crunchy and flavorful edges.
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