The List: Shoya Izakaya
Are you an adventurous eater? Or does the idea of going to a Japanese pub make you crinkle your nose? I understand any hesitation (remember my Embrace Sushi in 8 steps - here), but you need not fear. Japanese pub food is a low-risk way to try food low OR high on the adventure scale. Think of the Japanese version of tapas - small plates designed to be shared. We recently expanded our palate at Shoya Izakaya in Doraville because, of course, we were chasing down an item on the Creative Loafing Best Dish List.
The menu is a ridiculous 300-items long and the only thing we KNEW we were ordering was the item from The List, The Crispy Chicken Salad. After that, we knew we could get lost, so we took our direction from John Kessler’s guide (here) and some raving fan reviews on Yelp.
Food comes out in no particular order and your server is whoever happens to be walking by at the moment. Billy thinks there’s a staff of 100, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s just 10 people who move at lightening pace – lots of activity!!!
First up was the crispy chicken salad. The chicken was lightly breaded and tasty and the salad dressing was the standard (and delicious) Japanese topping, but for the life of me I couldn’t figure out why this dish would be on the list. Tasty, yes. Exceptional, no.
If you love delicious goyza (aka dumplings), the Shoya Izakaya version will not disappoint. Fabulous in every way! THIS dish is list worthy!!Then there were the Octopus Balls. Hmmmm. People on Yelp LOVE this dish and we were intrigued because not only did we see every table ordering them, our waitress said they were a favorite. While the flavors were good, imagine a combination of bbq sauce and grits - the texture was just not enjoyable. After biting into the squishy ball, you discover a crunchy bit (the octopus?) that just doesn’t sit well. That said, other people LOVE this plate, so maybe it's just me.
Or maybe you need some serious alcohol in your system....
Fortunately the octopus balls were followed by the lotus chips which, as chips go, WERE a new delightful treat. These bad boys will be a staple!Another Yelp favorite was the chicken skin skewers (kushikatsu). These were fine, but didn't live up to expectations. There are so many choices in the skewer category; next time we'll try something different.If you are the kind of person who likes sashimi, and I am, then you need to follow Kessler's advice and order the ika somen which is thinly sliced eel. The picture doesn't do the dish justice, but Billy and I both loved the flavor! The soy and ginger dipping sauce was particularly tasty! (I skipped the raw egg btw.)The final thing we ordered was a pure trust exercise. It started when I read the following in Kessler's review:
"Okonomi yaki ($9.50), a kind of thick pancake filled with cabbage, pork, and seafood then doused with sweet brown sauce, seaweed. and dried fish flakes, is your new favorite late-night food. I promise."
I don't need a late-night favorite exactly, but a seafood pancake, how can I resist that? Yes, please!
The result IS a bit of a goopy mess, and we were filled to the rim with food, but oh is this flavor delicious!Lucky for us, Shoya Izakaya has mochi, but only in strawberry and vanilla (the most inauthentic flavors possible!). Delish! So, if you're keeping score, we were batting right around 500. Some dishes were amazing, others were meh. However, the rest of the menu looks promising, and we will definitely go back!No, really, we will!If you are familiar with Japanese pub food, what should we try next?