A new Japanese eatery is set to open in LoHi by the end of October. Mizu Izakaya, on the sought-after corner of 16th and Boulder streets, will be a modern izakaya, a dining experience best described as a Japanese pub with full bar and a range of small entrees. Beyond classic tapas-style izakaya dishes, Mizu will boast sushi, a raw bar, a wok station and even an "omakase room," with traditional low tables where only a chef's-choice menu is served each night.
At this new spot, brainchild of owner Hong Lee (of the East Moon restaurant group), the traditional izakaya experience meets the modern. In this, the golden age of LoHi restaurants, Lee wanted to do something that the area hasn't yet seen. "It's a totally new concept," says Lee. "Why not tie the new age with the old age and do something different, be different?"
Lee beat out sixteen other potential contracts for the space, swooping in at the last moment when his plan to move into a nearby space now occupied by Sushi Ronin (at 2930 Umatilla Street) fell through. Mizu Izakaya was serendipitously granted this corner space, says Lee, adding: "It was meant to be." The restaurant occupies more than 3,000 square feet, with upwards of 150 seats inside and an additional forty to fifty outside. A view from the patio's north edge looking onto downtown is something that will have to wait for warmer weather for guests to enjoy.
Mizu's menu will feature rolled sushi classics, nigiri and sashimi made from the fresh catches of Lee's worldwide network of seafood vendors. The raw bar will serve oysters on the half shell, beef tataki, new-style salmon and hamachi ceviche, among other highlights.
Lee plans to have a daily special based on the freshest catch; regular menu options will include pork and kimchi udon; ramen salad; shrimp and grits with bacon; miso-marinated cream cheese; three types of donburi; king crab tempura with sweet ponzu; and chicken and frog-leg karaage. The owner notes that it's important for his kitchen to stay true to the traditional dishes of izakaya — appealing to those diners who know what to expect — while also offering something new and unique to his restaurant group by taking those diners out of their comfort zone.
The bar program will include eight rotating beers on tap with a focus on Japanese and local breweries. There will also be a carefully selected roster of sakes (including one on tap), alongside an impressive variety of uncommon Japanese whiskeys. Lee mentions a potential future collaboration with a local brewery to create a special Mizu rice-based, Asian-spiced beer. He plans to go all out with a daily happy hour as well.
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The aesthetic of the space echoes this old-meets-new concept, with metal light fixtures, ropes woven into latticework overhead, and dark wood accents by The Restoration Union (the same company that restored the interior of Avanti). In the entryway, your eyes are immediately drawn to a geisha mural by local artist Jher Seno, whose Stranger Things alleyway collaboration appeared in RiNo earlier this year and who has worked as an artist around the Mile High City since he was 15, helping de-stigmatize street art in urban environments. Lee commissioned the artist and provided him an image of a classic geisha, to which Jher added his own style.
Look for Mizu Izakaya to be open for dinner by the end of the month at 1560 Boulder Street, in the space formerly occupied by Cibo (a short-lived pizzeria), directly across the street from Lola Coastal Mexican.