A leading York restaurant says it has had ‘ups and downs’ in its first year but business has improved as time progressed.

Last November, Izakaya opened at 21 Grape Lane, in the premises of the former Wilde’s Bar and Bistro.

The business is owned by Chef Patron Danny Victory, 29,  and operations director Adam Johnson, 31.

Danny has a background with high-end restaurants, which in York include ShoriYork, and Adam has a wider hospitality background with roles at the Bohemian Bar and others.


Looking back, they call it “an incredible journey” that has had its “challenges” but “significant accomplishments”.

Initially, the restaurant focussed on small plates, which Adam says was met with “an overwhelming response.”

Demand was high, making the venue booked out, but serving small plates delivered high staffing costs so changes had to be made.

High energy costs, which peaked a year ago, presented another challenge.

This led to the pair to trial tasting menus on special occasions like New Year’s Eve and Valentine’s Day, which “turned out a resounding success.”

York Press: A plate of duck at Izakaya

Adam says the restaurant had always planned to evolve with tasting menus for weekends, with a two or three-course format for midweek and weekend lunches, but the needs of the business brought plans forward.

“We have found a successful balance that allows us to provide a unique dining experience to our loyal customers while ensuring the sustainability of our business,” he said.

Learnings along the way included seasonal tasting menus to match the fresh produce available,

But the summer Omakase included high-priced items like lobster, which meant for a £100 a person tasting menu, rather than £65. This proved challenging despite the busier summer months so the dearer items were removed and the price brought down to £70.

Instead, 2-3 course menus launched in the summer proved “a tremendous success” and “a game-changing move.”

Adam continued: “Our revamped marketing strategy and tagline, "Japanese Inspired, Yorkshire Driven," has played a pivotal role in helping people better understand our restaurant.”

Some customers, he says, expected a more traditional Japanese restaurant, but when they understood it was more ‘fusion’ and more unique, this was better received.

“In summary, our commitment to offering more dining choices, effective marketing, and a well-curated beverage selection has contributed to our restaurant's flourishing success,” Adam said.

York Press: Danny and Adam outside the restaurant

Over the year, the restaurant helped raise funds for the Burnt Chef Project, a not-for-profit that helps those in hospitality with mental health issues.

It has received rave reviews on TripAdvisor and is a finalist in Yorkshire Life magazine for ‘New Opening of the Year.’

Now, with Christmas approaching, a new menu promises “a unique Yorkshire inspired twist with Japanese inspiration.”

Special Sunday menus launching on November 26 will feature a unique interpretation of Christmas, with dishes such as Chicken Yakitori paired with cranberry sauce, Venison complemented by black garlic sprouts and teriyaki carrots, Turkey prepared Kaarage style, and Salmon served with a miso and honey sauce.

A New Year’s Eve tasting menu will be announced shortly.

After taking on board customer feedback, refining and improving along the way, the pair believe they have found a winning formula. But they are keen to expand with more unique experiences to deliver something special.

Adam said: “We are thrilled to introduce a variety of events, such as live music, sake tastings, Japanese whisky nights, and exclusive dining experiences featuring some of Chef Danny's most beloved dishes, like our highly anticipated ramen nights.”

He added: “IZAKAYA is just beginning its journey, and the incredible love and support we have received from our loyal customers over the past year are the driving force behind our continued exploration and growth. We are grateful for your continued support, and we can't wait to share many more memorable moments with you in the future.”