When it comes to Asian cuisine, I’ve been pleasantly surprised by what’s available in Chapel Hill over several months of visits. From Thai to Asian-fusion, Chapel Thrill and Carrboro offer up some types of food that are hard to find in other points of the Triangle. What used to be a haven for chicken biscuits, froyo, and blue cups is now leveling up its foodie game! One great example is the newer Iza Whiskey & Eats which opened up in the middle of pandemic, November 2020. Located on a small corner plaza on E. Main Street in Carrboro, Iza offer up a fun dining experience with excellent Japanese-fusion cuisine. Here’s what to expect when you visit!
Iza Whiskey & Eats, Location, Interior, and Decor
One of the bigger challenges you might have when dining at Iza Whiskey & Eats is the parking! Iza sits in a busy and odd lot that also contains Cats Cradle and Hickory Tavern. There are a handful of spaces right in front of Iza Whiskey & Eats, otherwise head into the main, central section of the lot or grab a space in the parking structure behind the Hampton Inn. This parking deck is a bit tucked away: a quiet street that leads you to this semi-hidden, multi-floor parking building behind the plaza.
Iza Whiskey & Eats is run by chef-owner Yung Nay who I had first run into in Raleigh at a Thai-Japanese spot near NC State. Iza Whiskey & Eats is categorized as Japanese-Fusion and the menu has a modern twist and dabbles a bit with flavors. The space inside is bright with lots of gold and red in the decor. The space is a bit tight with the tables closer together along with a lively, arced bar to the right but don’t forget about the sidewalk patio outside! Scan the menu and you’ll find a mix of your usual Japanese favorites on the menu along with a lot more.
Iza Whiskey & Eats, Menu and Food
For appetizers, I admit to having a weakness for fried eats and you can’t go wrong with the karaage (chicken) which consists of large, tender chunks of chicken meat, dusted in a starchy coating, and lightly fried. Dip your karaage into the yum-yum side sauce and your tastebuds will be in heaven! And the firecracker shrimp are perfectly fried triangles of minced seafood (shrimp, scallops) similar to a crab rangoon but better! I admit that I’m a bit of a sucker for fried apps since it’s something I’d be unlikely to prepare at home. Iza Whiskey & Eats does a great job in this category.
A non-fried appetizer that is excellent is their salmon tiradito. Fresh and luscious slices of fish cut sashimi style and served in an onion-truffle sauce, lovely stuff. And the Okinawan scallops feature two large scallops lightly seared and amazingly tender, served up in a uni butter saffron sauce and shiso pesto, delicious! The appetizers at Iza Whiskey & Eats lean toward the seafood side of the menu if you haven’t noticed!
But for the entree, you can choose from more meat-focused items like a ribeye steak, pork tonkatsu, general tso’s chicken, along with bulgogi and hibachi. For my entrees, I’ve stayed on the seafood side of things and the sushi rolls. Iza offers up both raw and cooked rolls, I’ve tried out their popular 007 and Spyder rolls along with a cooked Tornado roll. Iza does an excellent job here, offering up large pieces with a good balance of fish and rice. The rolls could be a bit tighter but they are tasty!
Iza Whiskey & Eats, Conclusion
And as you can guess, Iza offers up a robust bar menu with a focus on brown liquors and Japanese whiskeys. Don’t miss out on their cocktails as a good beverage option to pair with your meal! Service at Iza Whiskey & Eats is excellent, the restaurant is well-staffed and the dining room is small so help is always within reach. All in all, I’m pretty happy with what Iza Whiskey & Eats is bringing to Carrboro, a more modern take on Japanese cuisine and Asian favorites in a lively setting. The space is probably best suited for smaller parties but I’m sure you’ll leave happy and full when you visit!
And keep an eye out for Chef Yung’s next offering which will be located right next door: LA Tequila & Eats, more to come on that news, foodies…