Is Izakaya Amu in Boulder One of the Most Japanese Experiences in Colorado

This post was originally written in December 2018, but it was never posted.

Come on in, but first, take off your shoes (I hope you’re wearing your good socks, and your good underwear if you’re on a date).

In Denver, most of the “Japanese” restaurants are not Japanese owned or operated, so they typically produce fusion Americanized Japanese food. Fortunately for you and me, that is not the case with Amu because they are unapologetically Japanese, and I love that.

The maneki nekos adorning the overhang is way cuter than gargoyles.

Since this is a Japanese restaurant, you’ll leave your shoes at the door because any yellow-bellied marmot crap you stepped in while hitting the trails in your Soloman GTX hiking boots, will be left at the door.

Who is going to let me crash on their couch in Boulder, so that I can eat and drink here again.

Alcohol, plus grilled, raw, fried, and simmered food.

I know they tout themselves as an izakaya (an izakaya is like a pub), but this place is a lot like a kappo style restaurant which consists of a counter with the staff cooking or preparing raw, simmered, grilled, or deep-fried foods directly in front of you.

Remember what I told you about making sure you don’t have a hole in your sock.

I would love to meet the owner of this spot because I have a lot of respect for them trying to provide a truly Japanese experience from the time you set foot, shoeless through the door.

In the U.S., broccoli/vegetables is more like a decorative piece or used as filler on a plate.

Japan has the highest life expectancy in the world, partially because they are not eating a bunch of rolls covered in mayo or with a bunch of sweet sauces all topped with with deep-fried crunchy bits of tempura.

Exactly how I like it, thick and succulent slabs.


Katsuo (bonito) sashimi $17, this fish is the backbone of all Japanese food because this fish is used to make stock that is used in almost every single Japanese dish you can think of (from miso soup, oyakodon, to ramen).

One does not just take one picture of this dish, and one takes dozens because that is what one does.

Shōga/ginger or was it ninniku/garlic (either one is good)?, wakame/seaweed, wasabi, sliced cucumbers, julienned daikon, and a slice of lemon.

I don’t mind a little naturally occuring arsenic in my food because it’s never killed anyone… yet.


I love hijiki (seaweed or if you fancy, sargassum fusiforme) $5.00 and it has been consumed by the Japanese for centuries, along with the UK selling it in natural product stores for the last 30 years.

My family eats it like the dish above, but I have had it blended in with tofu to rice which is a great vegetarian/vegan ingredient.

Ruh roe, I forgot the name of this dish.

I have the worst memory which is why I need Instagram to give my memory a visual timeline, and if I don’t see a friend for a while (out of sight, out of mind), I can totally forget they existed. Well, the same goes for the name of this fish roe dish which I have had more than once, but I can’t remember the name.

This is a very minimalist version of shabu shabu.

Kind of odd to include cilantro and some sort of leafy green that is not used in shabu shabu, so I thought it was used just for the plating/decoration?

The wagyu they were unfortunately listing as “Kobe” for $22 is most likely not the case since there are very few restaurants that are certified to sell Kobe beef (from the Hyōgo prefecture) in the US.

My guess is that they are selling Harris Ranch’s SRF (Snake River Farms) “American Kobe” (dumb name) wagyu beef? I should also point out the BMS (beef marbling scale) looks lean with these cuts.

A sharp blade and slicing skills being put on display here.

Little details like this finely minced negi (green onions) are details I appreciate.

Shungiku, carrot, a bit of napa, and enoki is on the sparse side.

Did they not have a big plate where they could have laid out the meat properly?

If you’re going to plate the meat for shabu shabu, please do not plate it like this. You do not want your meat clumped together like this because it is not conducive to “swish swish (shabu shabu).”

When it is clumped together, you need to spend the extra effort to lay it out flat, so that when you cook the slices of meat, they cook evenly.

This is Boulder, and if you wondered, not everybody smelled like patchouli or weed.

This is Boulder, so not only is this a cool restaurant, but a lot of the people dining here are equally as a cool (a lot of well traveled people to people just wanting to experience what Japanese food is like).

In the U.S., that flame is called a legal liability.

That is one small donabe which is an earthenware pot, and I use one all the time for shabu shabu, torinabe, to sukiyaki.

If there is one Japanese dish I have been practicing for decades, it’s tempura.


To nitpick, the tempura was on the weak side for $14. 

At any other generic Japanese restaurant, a set like this would have gone for about $7-9, so how exactly is this set $14? 

I have had high-end tempura in Japan, and this version comes nowhere close to it. 

I would also go as far as to say that I can one-up their tempura (something I have been working on for decades, and I’m always still trying to improve on it).

If you text your friend about this dish, it could be the first time you used the eggplant emoji innocently.


Nasu (eggplant) dengaku $9, is a dish that I am not the biggest fan of, not because I do not like it, it is because I love simple grilled eggplant. A grilled eggplant just needs a little yuzu ponzu or shoyu with some optional bonito flakes.

Miso dengaku on the other hand is a miso glaze which can be overwhelming in terms of its bold flavor and it is on the sweeter side.

The neighbors

Tonari (neighbor)

I can’t help but think of the 24-hour sushi Zanmai in Japan, but I”m fairly certain that there is no relation although I think Amu and Zanmai are homies.


My guess is that the people at Amu are probably from the Osaka area due to their menu items and set-up which is a lot like a kappo style restaurant. So if you are visiting Colorado or live in the state, I highly suggest you go out of your way to try out Amu because I made the 45-min drive from South East Denver DTC area.

Izakaya Amu

Pearl Street Mall
1221 Spruce St
Boulder, CO 80302

(303) 440-0807


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