The book features eight different izakayas, each with its own section that begins with an essay that reads very much like a newspaper write-up: Robinson may describe the experience walking in the pub, the reputation of the pub, a brief history of the pub and the chef, the chef's philosophy about food and drink, the flow of the kitchen, and descriptions of the food, followed by about 9 recipes from the izakaya itself, written by the chef and each accompanied by a full-color photograph.
The dust jacket front flap says that Izakaya is the first publication in English to delve into every aspect of the izakaya, a unique and vital cornerstone of Japanese food culture. However, after reading the book, a second book would have difficulty providing insight additional to Robinson's- he paints such a vivid picture that the only way to better get an idea of what the izakaya experience is like is probably to go to one. From the physical description of the pub, to the demeanor of the chefs, and even the kind of company one can expect in each izakaya, Robinson captures all the details. Robinson chose the eight izakayas featured for their quality, ambience, and variety, and the unique charms of each izakaya shines through in the text.
The recipes are for the most part no-fuss recipes (no need to train for decades) with few ingredients, but the emphasis is on quality and creativity. The range from the familiar (sweet corn kakiage tempura, soy-flavored spare ribs, simmered kamo eggplant with pork loin, sliced duck breast with ponzu sauce, fried udon, summer scallop salad) to more exotic offerings (scrambled eggs with sea urchin, "motsu" beef intestine stew, shark fin aspic). There is inspiration to be found here not only for those who wish to travel in Japan or set up a pub of their own, but also for those who are adventurous enough to try a different kind of entertaining at home. The shots of the food (taken by one of my favorites, Masashi Kuma) and the izakayas are warm and inviting, and represent the izakaya culture remarkably.
The book delivers on its promise to provide a peek into this Japanese dining experience, but anyone interested in Japanese cuisine or culture in general would enjoy reading Izakaya.