In a sea of empty restaurant spaces beside a large Korean supermarket franchise, there lies an out-of-the-blue Japanese restaurant. Once you step past that large wooden door , you’re in another world. Did I somehow magically get into a transportation machine? The sounds of J-Pop fill your ears while that sweet smokey char-broil greets you at the door. “Irasshaimase,” the hostess says. As she takes a second look at you, her accented English comes out. “Oh, I guess I really am in Atlanta…“
The interior of the restaurant is literally set up as an “izakaya” — a Japanese drinking-estabalishment that serves the food to the drinks, rather than the drinks to the food. I’ve always loved the beautifully lighted atmosphere set along side the contrasting dark woods; I may not be an expert in interior design but the contrast always makes me feel some type of way. For larger parties, there are separate rooms where you can take off your shoes and sit on tatami mats at low setting tables.
Since it was just the two of us, a regular table fit the occasion just fine. We were greeted promptly and were handed the menus immediately. Pictures galore! I love it when restaurants show pictures because despite the fact of me being Chinese and Cambodian, it’s not like I’m an encyclopedia of all Asian dishes. My friend immediately atuned to saying that the ramen was the closest thing to get to Ippudo but after cooking pho the night prior for a few friends, noodles were a no-go. We both opted for the Shoya Don (salmon, tuna and bbq eel on sushi rice) that came with miso soup. Additionally, we ordered two yakitori appetizers (pork belly and squid) then takoyaki (a wheat-ball full of octopus with a sweet mayo dipping sauce) and karaage (Japanese style fried chicken nuggets).
A clear suggestion was not waiting until the yakitori was cold to eat. Once put on your table, DEFINITELY eat it. The ika became that weirdly jerky like while the pork belly lost its appeal. Once the takoyaki and karaage came out, we both didn’t hesitate. Delicious… I’m not sure exactly what is in that mayo sauce (my blood sugar probably doesn’t wanna know either) but it is divinely dank.
The star of the show was the Shoya Don. Everything was served picture perfect (even the lemon). The fish was fresh and the eel wasn’t overly barbecued. As I took a few bites, it reminded me of good ole Boston. Ouu, scary. While I don’t know exactly what the brown noodle-like stuff was, it gave great contrast to the fresh daikon and cucumber. It was exactly what I was craving for this semi-rainy night in Atlanta. It being only a 6 minute drive from my apartment makes it score higher on the list of it being one of my typical spots.