There has always been something a little bit strange about

Ten Thousand Waves

(3451 Hyde Park Road, 428-6390). When my family comes to visit, I like to take them there. They expect the full Southwestern experience; cowboy boots, dusts and native motifs but there is something so unexpectedly Santa Fe about the Japanese style oasis on the way out of town, right before the wilderness surrounds you completely, that I can’t help but feel it is important in understanding what it’s like to live here. As most residents know, either first-hand or from other enthusiastic patrons, the spa is a local favorite.

I can say first hand that after spending one or two date nights at the Waves, I always leave starving and am usually found raiding Whole Foods for sustenance five minutes before they shut their doors. Before Izanami opened, spa goers had to trek back down the mountain, usually racing the clock after a late night at the spa to complete the ritual of a night of total self-pampering. And before now there hasn’t been much of a reason to make the trek for non-spa patrons.

But those days are over.

Izanami, every bit as enchanting as the Waves, offers diners a chance to experience izakaya, a casual form of Japanese dining. Although the food is incredibly satisfying, the thing that strikes me the most about Izanami is the interior. From a high-pitched roof with huge gently twisting wooden beams hang a dozen lanterns softly illuminating the dining area. The space is clean, well-lit, warm and inviting. The space feels like a breath of fresh air from usual adobe charm.

First, the sake. The menu is divided into two categories, fragrant, bright and tart, sweet. We try a sample from each side and both decide that the 300 ml evoluzione "crazy milk" nigori ($15.75), from the tart, sweet side is favored. Our waitress brings our sake carafe chilled in a small wooden box filled with ice. We are allowed to choose our sake drinking cups from a box filled with more than a dozen choices.

The food at Izanami is tapas style and made from 95 percent organic ingredients. The dishes are small and good for sharing with prices that vary from $4 to $14 for a plate. Aside from the extensive sake collection there is a wide selection of drinks available including 12 kinds of tea, several different Japanese microbrews, red, white and sparkling rosé wines, and an assortment of coffee and sodas.

To start we order two cups of the seasonal soup which happens to be a sweet and sour winter vegetable ($7), the daily pickle assortment ($5) and on order of onigiri rice balls ($4). The daily pickle assortment has three different vegetables: beets, watermelon radishes and radish greens. All the pickles were delicious but the radish greens were a quick favorite. The rice balls are decidedly not balls, but instead triangular and large, but delicious and a good complement to the soup, which is smooth and hearty. The "crazy milk" sets in and we decide to order another two dishes.

We choose the housemade gyoza ($6) and the flourless yuzu ricotta cheesecake ($6). The gyoza, filled with pork, cabbage, scallion and ginger is perfectly seasoned, hot and savory—I will be ordering them again. The cheesecake was a good and simple iteration that was neither too sweet nor too creamy. We left completely satisfied customers and it didn't hurt that Izanami, in honor of the Waves' 33rd birthday, is currently offering 33-percent-off on all food and non-alcoholic beverages from 9 pm till close.

In spite of the fact that you won't find any fish at Izanami (we are in the desert after all), the menu still offers a taste of another world complete with transporting decor. The small plates add to the intimacy and make it even easier to share a wonderful night with a friend. Relaxing and charming, Izanami is sure to be a new local favorite.

3451 Hyde Park Road, 428-6390
Open daily 11am to 10pm