Straight Outta Shinjuku - Old School, Mom & Pop Japanese Pub with Oden! SHOYA [Review + Pics]


#1

Thanks to a note from @beefnoguy, we heard about this little Oden shop in the South Bay called Shoya. I had never heard of it, so asking a dear friend from Tokyo who came back to the U.S. about it, he had mentioned nonchalantly, “Oh yah, I’ve been there. Great little spot.” I then proceeded to (playfully) berate him for not telling us about it sooner! :unamused: :smile:

It turns out, it’s just something he took for granted, reminding him of the little hole-in-the-wall establishments in and around Shinjuku, and other little neighborhood spots around Tokyo.

Walking in, I felt a relaxing calm wash over me. It was quiet and serene (we were the first party there), but it was the warm hospitality of one half of the mom & pop shop, Natsuko Takahashi, that made it that much more inviting.

This place is small: It literally is just a simple wooden L-shaped bar, and holds only 9 seats(!). :open_mouth:

Shoya is an Izakaya (or Japanese Pub), but unlike many of the Izakaya around L.A., this one has a much more intimate feel (just 9 seats), and run by just 2 people, Natsuko Takahashi, who takes care of the Oden in the front, and Toshi Suzuki, who prepares the cooked dishes in the back.

There are no waiters, no busboys, just the 2 of them. It reminds me of @CiaoBob’s recommended Fukuno, the charming little grandma / grandpa establishment that we enjoyed so much. :slight_smile:

Shoya’s menu is primarily Small Plates, old-school Izakaya-style, on a handwritten menu (so charming! :slight_smile:). It has a smaller Oden menu, and that’s it.

Eihire - Grilled Skate Fin:

Lightly smoky, fragrant, briny with a touch of sweetness. Delicious. :slight_smile:

Michinoku Onikoroshi - Honjozo Sake (Miyagi, Japan):

Natsuko-san recommended the Onikoroshi to pair with our food this evening. It was excellent: Clean, crisp, delicate fruit notes (subtle) and a very dry finish! It went so well with most of the dishes we had. :slight_smile:

Yaki Tarako - Grilled Cod Roe:

Fantastic! A nice brininess, little pops of Tarako Cod Roe essence in each bite. And a great pairing with the Onikoroshi Sake. :slight_smile:

Oden - Poached Vegetables and Meats:

Their Tamago (Egg) Oden was basic and hardboiled. It’s nothing to write home about, but it had enough of their Homemade Oden Broth (nice balance of flavors, delicious Dashi) to make it enjoyable. It’s a far cry from Torihei’s famous luscious, Oden Egg with the liquid, soft-boiled center.

Poached Daikon Radish:

Cooked to a soft consistency, their Daikon was delicious! :slight_smile:

Chikuwa - Fish Cake:

Their Poached Chikuwa was tasty, if a bit straightforward.

Sunagimo - Chicken Gizzard:

I’ve never had Sunagimo prepared Oden-style, so this was a treat. The Chicken Gizzards had a natural meaty chew, they were fine.

Butabara - Pork Belly:

This was just overcooked, chewy Pork Belly. :frowning: One of the few misses of the evening. I think it shows that not everything might be great in Oden (Poaching).

Kinpira Gobo - Marinated Burdock Root:

Excellent! The care and pure, gentle marinade coming through with the thin slices of Marinated Burdock Root is noteworthy. My friend said it reminded him of family and home. Slightly crunchy, yet pliable and tender, this is a must order. :slight_smile:

Atsuage - Fried Tofu & Whitefish:

Their Homemade Atsuage Oden is fantastic! Soft, almost melting cubes of deliciousness! :blush: It soaked in their Homemade Oden Broth, and the silky, supple Tofu and Whitefish combination is perfect.

Gyu Suji - Beef:

Listed simply as “Beef” for the English translation, their Gyu Suji Oden featured perfectly poached morsels of Beef, Tendon and a bit of Beef Fat. Unlike the Pork Oden, this was perfect. Tender, beefy, delicious. :slight_smile:

Takenoko - Bamboo Shoot:

Their Oden-style Bamboo Shoots were also nicely seasoned, soaking in all of that delicious Homemade Oden Broth.

Agedashi Nasu - Eggplant:

While visually this might not look appealing, their Daily Special (off-menu) serving of Agedashi Nasu was stunningly good! Imagine Japanese Eggplant, cooked to an almost luscious creamy consistency, seasoned by a gentle, Homemade Dashi Broth that is just the right amount of salinity and umami, and you have their Agedashi Nasu!

One of the highlights of the evening! :heart:

It’s so humble, simple, “Grandma’s cooking” as my friend might say.

Hanpen - White Fish (Oden):

Shoya’s version of Hanpen, that wonderful Oden offering of Poached White Fish Cake, is a homemade, made-from-scratch affair. It is super soft, silky and delicious! :slight_smile: It is a totally different version of Hanpen compared to Torihei’s amazing Hanpen when they first opened back in the day.

Either way, their Housemade White Fish Cake is fantastic, and a must order as well! :slight_smile:

Asahi - Draft Beer from Japan:

They serve Asahi on Draft from Japan (not the North American brewed version), which was perfect with the next courses. So crisp and refreshing. :slight_smile:

Wafu Sui Gyoza - Japanese Style Dumplings:

Another item from their Daily Specials (off-menu), these are made-from-scratch Boiled Dumplings, prepared Japanese-style according to Natsuko-san. Taking a bite, the Dumpling skin is supple, but has a toothsome quality, but it’s this amazing Marinated Beef filling that stands out. It’s served in this fragrant, crave-worthy Homemade Beef Broth. Delicious! :blush:

Tai Shioyaki - Salt Grilled Snapper:

Another Daily Special, they had a specially prepared Salted and Grilled Snapper. The smokiness was subtle but just enough. However the Snapper was a bit overcooked. :frowning: It wasn’t bad, just the doneness of the Snapper detracted from this dish.

Tororo Natto - Grated Mountain Yam with Natto:

If you’ve never had Natto before, Fermented Soybeans, it is an acquired taste (more like gross! LOL :stuck_out_tongue: ;)). It is slimy, has a pungent funk to it, but otherwise tastes like Beans. Half of my Japanese friends love this stuff, the rest avoid it like the plague. :wink:

But here we had one of my friends who insisted on ordering it, so we acquiesced: The Grated Mountain Yam adds even more viscous, sliminess (but this is desired in this case), and when mixed with the Natto and some Soy Sauce, it was OK. My friend who ate this regularly in Tokyo, loved it! :slight_smile:

Kanpachi Kama - Grilled Greater Amberjack Collar:

Their last Daily Special of the evening, they were featuring Greater Amberjack Collar, grilled with a Housemade Tare marinade. Unlike their Snapper, this Kanpachi was moist, succulent, perfectly cooked through, and still exuded a buttery quality (even though there is no butter used).

And it was outstanding! :heart: If you ever see this offered on the Daily Specials, order it. :slight_smile:

Shishamo - Fried Smelt Fish:

Absolutely delicious! Perfectly fried little Smelt Fish, each one of them filled with Roe as well. Salty, briny, crisped. Perfect with Sake, Beer (or Rice)! :blush:

Tsukemono - Pickled Vegetables:

Their daily selection of Japanese Pickled Vegetables, or Tsukemono, were different than many local places. These Housemade Pickled Veggies were more mouth-puckeringly sour, in a salt brine, but when understanding the nature of this restaurant - a Japanese Pub - you understand it’s more extreme on purpose. When eaten with some Steamed Rice or their Asahi Draft Beer, and it mellowed things out and evened out the flavors. It was fantastic pairing with either of those things (or Sake). :slight_smile:

Tsukune Dango - Homemade Chicken Meatball:

Another Oden offering, this was a Poached Homemade Chicken Meatball. It wasn’t too dense, still meaty, and flavorful.

Kinchaku - Special Kinchaku with Whitefish & Tofu:

The last Oden item of the evening (their Oden menu is small), this is an adorable little “pouch” made of a Homemade Tofu and Whitefish blend, and the inside is stuffed with Mushrooms and Chicken. It was delicious! :slight_smile:

Takowasa - Octopus and Wasabi:

From Suzuki-san, this was a light, sublime dish that started off gentle, with small morsels of Octopus, mixed with Grated Japanese Mountain Yam and Wasabi. The Mountain Yam keeps things tame, until little bursts of Wasabi start coming through, clearing your sinuses! :open_mouth: :smile: And it was refreshing and delicious. :slight_smile:

Awabi Ga-rikku Bata- - Abalone with Garlic & Butter:

Their Abalone was a touch on the chewy side (which is normal), but so fragrant from the Garlic and Butter saute. It was a touch on the saltier side, but paired well with Sake, Beer and Rice to even out the salt.

Jidori Shio Kojiyaki - Grilled Wild Chicken:

And then we come to this: Juicy, crisped Jidori Free-Range Chicken, with this amazing Housemade Tare Sauce, we couldn’t stop eating this! We got 2 orders of this and devoured it in seconds. Suzuki-san uses a type of Koji (used in making Sake, fermenting Soy Sauce, Mirin, etc.), as part of the seasoning.

Highlight of the evening! :heart:

Kurobuta Ninniku Shougayaki - Garlic & Ginger Black Pork:

The “Black Pork” is Berkshire Pork, and the result is a gorgeous, smoky, garlicky, lightly spicy (from the Ginger) dish of seared porky goodness. :slight_smile:

Omusubi (Jyako Ume) - Rice Ball (Japanese Plum):

And then our final course. If we’re in a little mom-and-pop restaurant, and there’s Omusubi / Rice Balls on the menu, you know you have to try it. I’m so glad we did:

Imagine perfectly Steamed Rice (seriously perfect), fluffy, plump morsels, crisp Nori Seaweed(!), and their Japanese Plum filling (or you can choose Salmon or Grilled Cod Roe), and you have one of THE best Japanese Rice Balls I’ve ever had! :heart:

@MaladyNelson you must try this!

Every bite is this balance of fluffy goodness, delicious tart and salty Japanese Plum and the crunch of the Nori Seaweed wrapper. So good! :blush:

My friend from Tokyo just smiled in quiet silence, utterly content that it reminded him of family.

Sitting at Shoya - we were the only non-regulars, as we saw Natsuko-san greeting the other 4 guests who came in by name immediately - eating delicious Homemade little dishes in this tiny mom-and-pop restaurant, and it reminded me of the episode of Parts Unknown where Anthony Bourdain is sitting in a tiny hole-in-the-wall in Shinjuku, Japan, eating simple homely dishes with regulars.

I felt transported to another place and time, different from the hustle and bustle of L.A., just relaxing and whiling away the evening, enjoying simple, humble dishes with friends, enjoying some Sake along the way. :blush:

Shoya is pricey (even though their Oden dishes are like $2 - $5 each), we ended up paying about $85 per person total (including tax and tip), with plenty of drinks.

I think I enjoyed Torihei’s Kyoto-style Oden when Chef Masakazu Sasaki was still there (he’s gone back to Japan now) more than the Oden here, but there are some offerings that aren’t on Torihei’s menu, and some standouts (Hanpen, Beef, Kinchaku, Atsuage and a few others).

But their Izakaya Small Plates standout the most, marvelous, delicious, awesome dishes. I can’t wait to go back. :slight_smile:

(Reservations Only - Because it’s so small.)

Shoya
1920 Pacific Coast Hwy.
Lomita, CA 90717
Tel: (310) 534-3319

Update:

It had been too long since our last visit to Shoya. I started feeling nostalgic, wistful and knew it must be Shoya calling. :wink:

Walking in this evening, we were the first party to arrive, and were warmly greeted by literally one-half of the entire restaurant staff - Natsuki Takahashi-san - who is one half of the mom-and-pop shop duo that runs this little Japanese Pub. Toshi-san was in the back already prepping.

Just watching Natsuko-san preparing a simple pot of Tea for our party, was somehow calming and relaxing (and it was a good quality Tea):

Karatamba - Honjozo Sake (Hyogo, Japan):

Shoya has a small Sake menu, so this time we opted to try their Karatamba Sake. There is an initial alcohol note, but it quickly dissipates into a surprisingly round taste, and a very dry finish, clean and crisp! :slight_smile: @beefnoguy I forgot to ask if they have a corkage fee, but having to stick with only their Sake Menu, the Karatamba was fine.

It surprisingly turned more fruity and an almost light sweetness as the Sake got closer to room temperature as the evening went on (but still with a great dry finish).

Oden Round 1, Daikon & Yaki-Tofu:

The Poached Daikon Radish in their Oden Broth was as satisfying as last time. Cooked to a pleasing, soft consistency, it soaked up their Housemade Oden Broth which made each bite that much more satisfying. :slight_smile:

Yaki Tofu:

Their Grilled Tofu is then poached in the Oden Broth and is even more enjoyable, slightly silken, with the Oden Broth permeating the entire chunk of Tofu.

Shoya Salad:

Their Shoya Salad is a Mixed Green Salad, with bits of Cucumber, Tomatoes and Corn mixed in, along with a Housemade Miso-Mayo Dressing. This was OK, but a nice way to get some greens in for dinner. :wink: Looking forward in trying their Seaweed Salad next time.

Sanma no Tsumire (Homemade Fishball):

Another of their Oden offerings, listed simply as “Homemade Fishball,” Toshi-san takes Pacific Saury Fish as a base and creates a finely ground, surprisingly meaty, but so tender Poached Fishball, lighter than any typical kind of “Meatball” we might find around town. Delicious. :slight_smile:

Kinchaku - Special Kinchaku with Whitefish & Tofu:

Their Homemade Tofu and Whitefish “pouch” is stuffed with Ground Chicken and Mushrooms, and then poached in their Oden Broth. It is as light, fluffy and delicious as last time! :blush:

Potato Salad:

Seeing this 2-person duo offer up a Potato Salad, I knew I had to order it, remembering @bulavinaka’s quest for finding great Potato Salad in the city. :slight_smile:

This is a great Potato Salad: Creamy (but not heavy), slightly rustic mashed chunks of Potato, with a hint of Wasabi. It is refreshing, bright and so good! @bulavinaka let us know what you think of Natsuko-san and Toshi-san’s Potato Salad if you get to trying it. :slight_smile:

Atsuage (Fried Tofu):

Shoya also serves an Atsuage Small Plates dish, with the Tofu being fried and then grilled. It is smoky, but eaten with a bit of the fresh-grated Ginger, Green Onions and a bit of the Daikon Oroshi, and it is excellent! Especially with the Karatamba Sake (or some Steamed Rice). :wink:

Kakuni (Sweet & Tender Pork):

In one of the rare cases of non-descriptive English names on the menu, I skipped over this menu item, until our friend from Tokyo mentioned that in Japanese it was “Kakuni” (as in Buta no Kakuni), the classic Japanese Izakaya dish of long-stewed Pork Belly. OK, must order! :smile:

Shoya’s version of Kakuni is actually true to the English name: It is a touch on the sweeter side, but still very savory, tasting of a long-stewed Shoyu and Mirin base. There are a couple pieces that are a bit dryish, but most of the pieces were tender and succulent. :slight_smile:

Currently, I think Aburiya Raku’s version is our favorite, but Shoya has a respectable version if you’re in the mood and dining here. I loved the use of Quail Eggs (instead of just 1 Hard Boiled Chicken Egg), which were softer, more tender in the yolk and matched better.

Shishamo - Fried Smelt Fish:

As perfectly crisped and delicious as last time: The Fried Smelt Fish were briny, smoky and had some Roe as well. :slight_smile: Another great pairing with the Karatamba Sake.

Kara-age Nanbanzuke (Fried Chicken Prepared Nanbanzuke-Style):

Part of their Daily Specials on this evening, this turned out to be one of the only misses we had for dinner, unfortunately. They take chunks of Chicken and prepare it in a classic Kara-age / Japanese Fried Chicken style. After that, they marinate it in a Vinegar-based Sauce.

What threw me for a loop was that this was a chilled dish(!). I was totally thinking that this was going to be a crispy, hot Japanese Fried Chicken dish and maybe quickly sauteed with Vinegar and other flavors. Looking beyond the disconnect, it’s just sad (for me personally) that crispy Fried Chicken is then turned soggy by marinating it in a Nanbanzuke-style Sauce and chilled. The textures just didn’t work for me. :frowning:

Dashimaki (Omelette):

Having recently enjoyed the phenomenal Tamagoyaki (Rolled Egg Omelette) at Wadatsumi, we wanted to see how Toshi-san’s version turned out.

Wow! This is a fluffy, juicy(!) Rolled Egg Omelette, infused with a Housemade Dashi, so it’s far less sweet than the Tamagoyaki at Wadatsumi and Otafuku (both of which are still fantastic). :slight_smile:

Definitely a must-order! :heart:

Ebi Arashioyaki (Grilled Shrimp with Sea Salt):

The Shrimp are grilled with Sea Salt, with the shells crisped and grilled long enough that it becomes brittle (so you can eat the Shrimp with the shell if you want). There is a nice briny, smokiness, and it is quite appealing with Sake or their excellent Steamed Rice. :slight_smile:

Jidori Shio Kojiyaki (Grilled Wild Chicken):

I had to order their Grilled Wild Chicken again, as it was the highlight from our last visit. As before, what makes this Jidori Chicken stand out is not only an excellent grilling, keeping the Chicken nice and moist and lightly smoky, but it’s that Toshi-san marinates the Jidori Chicken with Koji (used in fermenting a variety of items like Sake and Soy Sauce, etc.). It brings out a real, crave-worthy taste to each bite. So good! :heart:

Yasai Itame (Pan-Fried Vegetables):

This was a simple dish, nothing really spectacular, but also something that just fit this little mom-and-pop shop: A quick stir-fry of Cabbage, Carrots, Enoki Mushrooms and Bok Choy, but tossed in a Rice Vinegar-based Sauce, the subtle tartness was great with a chilled Beer or Sake. :slight_smile:

Kanpachi Kama - Grilled Greater Amberjack Collar:

Another of the Daily Specials, it looks like we were lucky enough to have the Kanpachi Fish appear again just as we were visiting again. :smile:

Absolutely perfectly grilled Kanpachi Collar, it is moist, flaky, succulent, and lightly seasoned. Outstanding! :heart:

Yaki Tarako Omusubi (Cod Roe Riceball):

I made it a point to quickly eat this as it arrived, to see how the Nori (Seaweed) would turn out. It wasn’t as crisp as our first visit, but the top edges of the Seaweed wrapper were still crisped, but the bottom where most of the Rice was touching, was soft, like @CiaoBob’s visit.

However, the Yaki Tarako (Grilled Cod Roe) was an excellent match here: Burst of briny salinity from the Grilled Cod Roe, diluted perfectly by the wonderful, plump, fluffy Steamed Rice. @TheCookie this is another example of a Japanese restaurant that takes pride in their Steamed Rice (like Wadatsumi). :slight_smile:

Anago Meshi (Teriyaki Eel Bowl):

This is Grilled Sea Eel (Anago) marinated in a Housemade “Teriyaki” Sauce, having the sweetness associated with “Teriyaki” but it’s different than what one might expect. The Anago was quite tasty, and the excellent Steamed Rice really elevated this dish.

Dashi Chazuke with Salmon:

Listed on the menu simply as “Dashi Chazuke,” this is Shoya’s version of the heartwarming dish “Ochazuke,” a sort of Rice Porridge dish made of Steamed Rice steeped in a hot Green Tea. Here, Toshi-san uses his Housemade Dashi Broth instead, and provides more savoriness and flavor.

It is comforting and a great way to finish our meal. :slight_smile:

Shoya continues to be a charming little mom-and-pop Izakaya serving Oden on the side. While its dishes collectively might not surpass places like Aburiya Raku, it makes up for it in its warm, comfortable atmosphere, of being in the hands of Natsuko-san and Toshi-san, a 2 person operation that takes care of their customers from when you enter until when you leave.

But in its simplicity, you might find some stellar dishes like the Jidori Shio Kojiyaki (Grilled Wild Chicken), Takowasa (Octopus and Wasabi), Atsuage Oden (Homemade Whitefish & Tofu Poached in Oden Broth), or Dashimaki (Rolled Egg Omelette).

Or just enjoy sitting relaxed in a humble 9-seat restaurant listening to an old-school Japanese soundtrack that reminds my friend of being back in Shinjuku, whiling away the late night hours.

(Reservations Only - Because it’s so small.)

Shoya
1920 Pacific Coast Hwy.
Lomita, CA 90717
Tel: (310) 534-3319


What makes Japanese food in LA special?
What makes Japanese food in LA special?
#2

That looks like a gem!


#3

Oh, I adore oden! Thanks for tagging me, @Chowseeker1999. I’ll have to try Shoya when I’m feeling kinda flush.

Several years ago, I had a craving for oden and lovingly prepared it to take to work for lunch. Only thing is I forgot it was street cleaning day… That was the most expensive oden I’ve had so far. Womp womp.


#4

I know this weather ain’t jack compared to winters in most of Japan, but it’s about as oden-y now as it gets. :grin:


#5

Agreed. Oden, gyoza, nabe, okonomiyaki, takoyaki, and ramen/udon are so crave-worthy right now.


#6

… and mizutaki or okayu, and for a good guratan I’ll even put with all that cheese.


#7

Hell to the yeah, @ipsedixit!


#8

Hi @MaladyNelson,

I hope you get a chance to try it. Their Izakaya dishes like their Agedashi Nasu and Kanpachi Kama were sublime as well. :slight_smile:

And their Omusubi / Onigiri! I thought it was better than Sunny Blue and the other places I’ve tried recently. :slight_smile:


#9

Oh, this is good to know! Thanks as always for your contributions here, @Chowseeker1999!


#10

Amazing. How do they do that? So much incredible food for a “mom n’ pop”.

[Wazing Lomita]


#11

Thanks for the great report @Chowseeker1999, that kama, grilled chicken and rice ball look awesome.


#12

amazing find, I’m going to check that out as soon as possible.


#13

“Where to find Japanese comfort foods in Los Angeles, Spring 2017 edition”

I take PayPal for creating these headlines for you.


#14

haha nice one


#15

Hi @Bookwich,

Yah, it’s pretty incredible that just the two of them (with no other help) can turn out so many delicious dishes, and keep the restaurant running smoothly, refilling drinks, etc. Hope you get to try it. :slight_smile:


#16

Thanks @PorkyBelly. I think you’d like the place; just a small, simple hole-in-the-wall. Besides those dishes you mentioned, maybe give their Atsuage (Oden version (they have 2 styles of this dish)), Shishamo (Fried Smelt Fish), Agedashi Nasu (Eggplant) a try as well. :slight_smile:


#17

Thanks @matthewkang. Hope you enjoy your visit! :slight_smile:


#18

Hi @beefnoguy,

Since you said you were visiting soon, I wanted to pass along their Sake Menu. They only have 4 selections (surprisingly small), but they have a much larger Shochu Menu. For Sake:

  • Michinoku Onikoroshi
  • Suigei
  • Karatanba

These 3 were surprisingly well-priced at only $35 for the entire bottle!

  • Hakkaisan

The Hakkaisan was at $60. When we asked if it was the Daiginjo, she said it wasn’t that one. I didn’t feel like pressing further on which one it was (we’ve had 2-3 different Hakkaisan bottles in the past, so we weren’t interested in ordering it that night anyways).


#19

Wonderful place!
Deserves some love. Really special - if you don’t live in Tokyo.
Natsuko gave us a little lesson on the variations of Oden Broths - their’s is a Tokyo style broth (lighter than more typical Northern styles).
We had many (but not AS MANY :slight_smile:) of the same dishes.
Had no room for the octopus/wasabi, any pork, any beef, collars, abalone, and the eggplant; had no inclination for natto,
Added a non-traditional jalapeno oden (spicy, goes well with sake per Natsuko-san)

Salt grilled Shrimp instead of the Snapper

The only small area that seemed “off” for our meal compared to @Chowseeker1999 's was that we had VERY non-crispy nori around the Omusubi (and did Cod Roe of which there wasn’t much inside) - non-crispy nori is a pet peeve of mine. Otherwise fantastic.

Thanks @Chowseeker1999


#20

Hi @CiaoBob,

So glad you liked your visit! :slight_smile: That’s awesome that you were able to choose a different type of Oden broth! I’ll have to try it next time. :slight_smile:

Bummer about the nori on the riceballs. Strange. Were they eaten as soon as they arrived to you? Or perhaps did they sit for a few minutes? Just curious. Ours were eaten as soon as they arrived and were crisped. I’ll have to try it again and see.

The Shrimp looks delicious. :slight_smile: And definitely try the Kanpachi Collar next time.