The food, too, goes beyond many preconceived notions about Japanese cuisine and focuses on bar bites. Maki and miso soup are hard to come by; instead, a fryer works overtime to churn out the alcohol padding. Although Azasu is the casual kid sister to the elegant restaurant Yopparai, the food, while comforting, can be thought-provoking.
Head chef Danielle Sobel fell in love with Japanese cuisine during her first culinary internship. A graduate of the French Culinary Institute, her path took her primarily to Japanese restaurants in the city: first an internship at En Brasserie, then Morimoto, Public (her only non-Japanese employer), Yopparai and finally Azasu. In an interview with her, she spoke fervently about the etiquette that is found in the kitchens of these establishments. There is a respect for every utensil and every grain of rice. Knifework is elevated to an art form and vegetables are given the same level of respect as any expensive piece of protein. All cuts are intricate yet simple at the same time.
A must-order are the pancake octopus balls. Fried orbs of dough, studded with octopus, are topped with shaved tuna bonito and kewpie mayo. Parchment paper thin, the bonito magically curls and waves from the heat given off from the balls, making for a mystical-looking (and tasting) bite. The slightly crunchy shell gives way to a creamy interior and the flakes melt quickly away like cotton candy. Texturally, it's a lot of fun to eat.