Izanami at Ten Thousand Waves | A Feast for All Senses - SantaFe.com
Sushi plates at Izanami in Santa Fe

Drive the winding road up into the mountains that rise above Santa Fe’s north side to Ten Thousand Waves and its restaurant, Izanami, and you might think you made a wrong turn and landed in the Japanese countryside. After all, the Waves was inspired by the great Japanese mountain hot spring resorts. Over four decades, the owners have turned this piñon-and-juniper-covered slope on the way to the Santa Fe ski area into one of the most compelling destinations anywhere. Whether dining, soaking, spa-ing, or spending the night, the experience will be unforgettable.


Sashimi and kakiage vegetable fritters
Sashimi and kakiage vegetable fritters at Izanami.

Izanami was added in more recent years but looks timeless from its perch on high. Diners stroll past a thundering waterfall on their way into the pagoda-roofed izakaya. In essence, an izakaya is a Japanese-style tapas bar, with small plates that can be easily shared. While the concept is casual, the experience here always feels special. The restaurant also serves a full array of sushi, which is some of the freshest seafood this side of the Tokyo fish market. Prices are commensurate with quality.

I order the chirashizushi as often as anything here. I think of it as a bowl of bliss — rice topped with a selection of pristine raw fish, cucumbers, seaweed, and fresh-grated wasabi root. This is also a place to enjoy top-quality wagyu, the tender and exceptionally marbled beef originally from Japan. Some of the wagyu beef comes from an American ranch, but the rest is imported from Japan. You can try a mix of the two, ishiyaki style, where you cook thin medallions of the meat tableside over a hot stone. You can get a classic steak, too, pepper-crusted and seared, or even a ‘Nami burger with a side of crispy shichimi-spiced fries. I find the other fried dishes hard to resist, especially the chicken karaage and kakiage, seasonal vegetable fritters served with wasabi salt.

Chirashizushi at Izanami.
Chirashizushi at Izanami.

Chef Kiko Rodriguez excels at Japanese preparations. However, he came from Mexico. He had a stint making Spanish tapas for La Boca and brings those sensibilities to some of his dishes. Try the miso mole gyoza for a cross-cultural eye-opener. Chef Shingeru Usuki oversees the sushi and sashimi. The choices change with the season and availability. All will be impeccably fresh and stunningly presented.

Many of the items on the menu are gluten-free and/or vegetarian or vegan. The vast majority of the produce is certified organic or raised sustainably. Much of it is local, some of it from the resort’s own garden across the road. The tamari and soy sauce are verified to be GMO-free.

Desserts usually have a touch of cross-cultural whimsy to them, such as black sesame flavoring the panna cotta, yuzu citrus infusing the cheesecake, or miso mingling with caramel in the ice cream.


Izanami exterior
Izanami at Ten Thousand Waves.

The sake program is exceptional, overseen by owner Deborah Fleig. She’s one of fewer than 40 female sake masters in the world. Each week, Deborah offers a different flight of sake tastings. That offers a great way to learn whether you favor daiginjo, elegant and refined, namazake, unpasteurized and extra bright, or perhaps junmai, full, rich, and earthy. Izanami has pages of possibilities. I’ve always found the staff helpful at homing in on an excellent choice, or three, for my taste and meal. If you prefer wine, the options — mostly from Italy and France — are well-chosen to accompany the food. Of course, since it’s an izakaya, you can choose from multiple Japanese beers. A half-dozen green teas, as well as other teas, infusions, coffees, local root beer and ginger ale, and even Mexican Coke, round out the beverage possibilities.

If you can score a reservation for the soaking tubs here, or a massage, or another spa service, you can make a day or evening of it. You can even stay overnight at Houses of the Moon, the quaint inn in the tradition of a Japanese ryokan. Whatever you choose, it will feel like a feast for every sense.

Izanami at Ten Thousand Waves
21 Ten Thousand Waves Way, off Hyde Park Road
Reservations highly recommended

Cheryl Alters JamisonStory by Cheryl Alters Jamison

Four-time James Beard Foundation Book Award-winning author Cheryl Alters Jamison is the host of Heating It Up on KTRC and is now the “queen of culinary content” for SantaFe.com. Find new stories about the Santa Fe food scene each week on SantaFe.com.

Read Cheryl Alters Jamison’s bio here!
This article was posted by Cheryl Fallstead

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