Miso Izakaya: Laurels Be Damned, Changes On The Horizon

Miso Izakaya and chef/owner Guy Wong have become critical darlings.  The end result is that this Old 4th Ward Japanese restaurant (and chef) has won and been nominated for a slew of awards across the foodiesphere.  With Wong and sous chef Melissa Allen firmly entrenched in the kitchen, one can’t be completely shocked by this critical infatuation.  While many chefs across the city spend a chunk of time trying to play the celebrity game, Wong and Allen focus on consistency by cooking everything that comes out of that kitchen.

So those efforts, combined with the infatuated writings of many, have helped the small plate restaurant overcome a sputtered start, which, has given way to an ever expanding customer base beyond that of our city’s edgier food fans.  While some of our city’s cash cow restaurants sit back and watch the system chug quietly along, that’s not in the cards for Miso Izakaya.

Izakayas are the Japanese equivalent to the Spanish tapas bar.  But as Spanish food has moved away from the peripherals of this country’s culinary habits, Japanese food is still somewhat fringe (don’t give me the sushi bit … I’m not talking about that here … Japanese people eat more than fish and rice).

In what some might call a risk, it appears that Miso Izakaya isn’t simply satisfied with status quo (even if that status is on the up and up).  Wong, who is Chinese by trade, is giving the restaurant menu a pretty hefty makeover.

The menu is about to get chopped down in the quantity of offerings to instead focus on seasonal dishes unlike anything in and around the city of Atlanta.  Most of what you can get today will go out the door.  Though some of the items will stay, probably as a tactful decision to avoid alienating those that are just starting to get comfortable with this type of food, most of it will be totally new.

The buns, gyoza, pk fried rice, and soy egg are all definitely staying.  Beyond that, I *think* everything is fair game for the chopping block.  In their place, the menu is going to be swished and swashed with offal, game, a touch of street, and hints of more progressive cuisine.  Despite that breadth, it will be tighter and seems to be shaping up nicely.  Though Izakayas are traditionally Japanese, Miso’s food will continue to sample bits and pieces from all over Asia (I also catch a feint whiff of Suthun/America grub in the still to be finalized selections).

I do know that a play on the spreading like a wildfire Japadog is set to show.  It’s locally sourced at this time (guess where the buns are coming from?), but the link may change to focus less on the “ooh it sounds good b/c it’s local” and move more towards the “this is the best link we can find.”  That’s a guess – cuz for all I know – the local option they’ve secured might be top notch.

Also, Wong has scooped up a Sushi House Hayakawa disciple to breath much needed life into the restaurants substandard sushi menu.  That metamorphous will start slow with Wong bringing in some more esoteric fish options straight from Japan (presumably the Tsukiji markets).  Apparently, Miso will initially offer these specialties during weekends.

Regardless of those fuzzy specifics, essentially what Wong is doing is offering a seasonal menu (meaning it will change every few months as different ingredients come to life) produced with improved upon ingredients (local farms we all know and love will play a big part).  It’s a calculated gamble for the woody bastille as Miso is still serving a fringe cuisine.  But hopefully, the handful of familiar options will soften the blow for those reticent culinarians who are just starting to see what Miso (and Izakayas in general) are all about.

It’s a lot for this deceptively small operation to take on (Wong is a wearer of many hats), so we’ll see how it all pans out.  But the facts I’ve just given, though masquerading as rumors, will certainly garner a snap to attention (in a good way) from even the staunchest of Miso’s current supporters.

And if my sources are correct (which they 100% are), this is all set to come together during the early part of February, just as the restaurant celebrates its 3rd anniversary.  I’ve put a word in with Wong and Allen to see when and if they will have anything formal to say on the matter, but for now – this word be as good as gold.

It looks like the man so hell bent on always improving is starting to focus on setting standards.

[via wouldn’t you like to know? 😉 – images courtesy MI facebook]

Miso Izakaya Address & Information

619 Edgewood Ave, Atlanta, GA 30308 · view map
678.701.0128 ·
Cuisine: Japanese, Asian · Price Range: $$
@GuyWongATL · facebook

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