Shoya Izakaya is currently the sole occupant of a shopping center that soon will be the home of a large Super H Mart, and as I drove up to it early in the evening, there were, I estimate, perhaps 40 to 50 cars in front of the eatery. There were so many I tried to get a photo (I didn’t get them all, I needed a wider angle lens). And after I watched 2 more people walk into the eatery I thought I had better join them, because it looked to be getting packed.
I was, it turns out, lucky. It’s a beautiful restaurant inside, but it’s a little small for the crowds they’re now getting, a little cramped. There was space at the sushi bar, and they seated me there. Though crowded, it was quite amiable, and staff were doing their best to manage the crowd.
After a bit of time, I was able to talk to a waitress, and I ordered 4 items to begin: oshinko (pickles), ankimo (monk fish liver), ikura oroshi (I wasn’t 100% sure of what this was initially, but I wanted to try it — ikura sounded familiar), and yakitori (chicken kebabs), cooked in sea salt. Later I ordered bbq eel (unagi kabayaki), and beef ponzu ae.
An izakaya is a bar, a place to drink, but in America, they’re becoming more akin to tapas bars. Shoya is an example of this style. The menu covers six pages in English and Japanese, and the menu is perhaps two and a half feet long (longer than my forearm – I checked). There are a dizzying array of choices, and that doesn’t even begin to cover the offerings of the sushi bar. The menu items are, for the most part, inexpensive. The serving size is small. The idea is to let the customer try many different things, rather than settle on just one thing and eat that. I have to admit it’s a totally seductive proposition, and in the process, I forgot the one thing that would have centered the meal, and that is a bowl of rice. Unfortunately, that’s something I’ll have to fix on another visit.
The first thing I received was the ankimo, and in many respects it was the most surprising thing I had. It’s not at all like the liver of a land animal, and the product was creamy, molded into a oval shape. The ankimo was delicious, one of the best things I had that day. The ikura oroshi came next, and I liked it quite a bit. Basically it’s salmon roe over a bed of shaved daikon, and I really like salmon roe. Oshinko came next, with pickled carrot, daikon, cucumber, mushrooms, beans, and bits of pickled ginger. It was quite good, but would have been better with rice.
The yakitori arrived a few minutes later. It was lighter in color than the yakitori I’ve been having, and the salt added tastes I hadn’t had before. It was very good. The BBQ eel arrived next. I’ve always liked unagi, and this was no exception. I found it a bit hard to cut with chopsticks, and gave up finally, and used other means to bring it into edible size. The last dish, perhaps the biggest dish I had all night, was the beef ponzu ae. It’s been noted in other blog reports that it is really good, cool thin strips of beef mixed with a light brown sauce and full of perfect green leaves. I’d say it was among the best dishes I had that day.
Service was good, all things considered. The restaurant had people waiting almost from the time I was seated until I left. People remarked that they could have used more staff, and I suspect that’s true. All in all though, I had a great time. I’m sure I’ll be back.
Verdict: If Japanese tapas appeals to you, then this place is very highly recommended.
6035 Peachtree Road
Doraville, GA 30341
Notes: There exist previews and reviews by John Kessler, Gene Lee of Eat Drink Man, and Foodie Buddha. Chow Down Atlanta has also weighed in on this eatery. Last, but never least, Amy on Food has an elegant report on the food of Shoya Izakaya.