Shoya Izakaya: As Authentic Japanese As You Can Get

What do you imagine the headquarters of a Japanese mafia to look like? I made up my mind as soon as I walked into Shoya Izakaya, which is located on the corner of a very nearly empty shopping center.

It feels just the way you think a traditional Japanese teahouse might, except the dim and loud atmosphere makes me feel like there’s a mafia meeting happening behind the plain white walls, with dark wood strips running along them.

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There’s a full sushi bar with seating to observe very energetic and enthusiastic sushi chefs converse with one another and the diners.

Shoya also offers an authentic dining experience in which groups of 4 or more can take off their shoes before entering a private eating space and sit on floor cushions with cloth coverings on the door for privacy. You either have to meet a baseline cost of food or pay an external fee for the private room.

On a Saturday night at 9 PM, my parents and I had to wait over 15 minutes for a seat, which intrigued me. Is this a late night restaurant, or is this place just hugely popular? Or is it both?? It turns out, an izakaya is essentially a Japanese bar that specializes in tapas-like dishes, which attracts a crowd of people who have just gotten off of work and are looking for a place to hang out and have a drink.

The crowd who frequents this restaurant is a bit on the older side; you should visit this place if you’re looking for somewhere best described as “sophisticated.”

But enough about atmosphere. Let’s talk food.

The menu is huge, though each dish is the size of a typical tapas dish, and is meant to be shared by everyone, ordered as desired, throughout the duration of the meal. To put it into perspective, for three average eaters, we needed more than seven dishes, which arrived one by one as they were ready.

The price of every dish averages out to ~$6, which makes sense because, although it seems initially overpriced, the detailed attention and professionalism behind each dish justifies the price tag.

The full bar features a variety of alcoholic drinks, including Japanese specialties like sake and shochu. There’s even a vertical beer dispenser placed at large tables so the diners can help themselves! Talk about getting a party started.

There’s a huge selection of sushi, both raw and cooked (ask the waiter for the sushi menu you’d expect at most sushi places). Along with seafood dishes, veggie dishes, and meat dishes, there’s also a decent section for ramen (thin noodles) and udon (thick noodles).

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Tiny, beautiful plates meant for each diner to limit the amount of space and maintain an aura of delicacy with each bite.

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The shoyu salad ($7.50) was comprised of bitter greens, radishes, carrots, etc. with a tangy ginger dressing on the side. So-so. Nothing spectacular, and probably doesn’t live up to its price.
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The roast pork ($6.5) was so tender, with strips of fat running through here and there, lying seductively atop a bed of shredded cabbage and drizzled with a sweet, savory sauce.
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The tan tan ramen ($10.5) came in a vibrant red broth, complimented with ground pork, preserved bamboo, and hard-boiled egg. The noodles themselves were satisfyingly al dente and the broth was mildly spicy, which says something, coming from me, or all people. My favorite aspects of this bowl were the noodles and the bamboo.
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Renkon chips are known by my family as “ou” or lotus roots; for $5, they were thick and super oily and lacking in flavor. The concept was inviting but the dish did not live up to my expectations…
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$5 Potato dango was a delicious fried dish worth every calorie, made of creamy mashed potato balls lightly fried and topped with a flavorful, delicious teriyaki sauce.
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This dish, called takoyaki ($7), was comprised of creamy filling, chopped octupus, and green onion. It had a bit of a funky texture and taste…I didn’t like it. Too fishy for my taste.
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The ika sansai (squid appetizer) was rubbery and came atop shredded radish. I couldn’t differentiate what was what and for $5.5, it was decent but I wouldn’t bother ordering it again.
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Our dragon roll ($10) tasted wonderful; I would describe the portion sizes as above average! My mom described it as “fresh,” and compliments by her are hard to come by. The corner of the plate was adorned with ribbons of kelp seaweed. We loved the eel inside and the eel sauce on top…YUM.

Overall, you’ve got to be careful, because this izakaya serves a ton of fried food. It’s not the healthiest food, but it will leave you very satisfied, I can promise you that. If you’ve got a knack for adventure, try this place out!

Total bill = $64 for 3 people no leftovers.

You do the math. Don’t forget to factor in the experience and the authenticity of it all.

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