It had been too long since our last visit to Shoya. I started feeling nostalgic, wistful and knew it must be Shoya calling.
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! @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.
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.
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. 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.
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!
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.
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.
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).
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!
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.
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. 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.
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).
Definitely a must-order!
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.
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!
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.
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.
Absolutely perfectly grilled Kanpachi Collar, it is moist, flaky, succulent, and lightly seasoned. Outstanding!
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).
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.
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.)
1920 Pacific Coast Hwy.
Lomita, CA 90717
Tel: (310) 534-3319