Monday, March 16, 2009

Small plates, big appetite! (Honda-Ya, Little Tokyo)

I remember hearing about a place out in Orange County on ChowHound for quite some time and when I got wind that it was opening up here in Los Angeles I was pretty excited to give it try. Honda-Ya always got good reviews from everybody so naturally it piqued my interest, but unfortunately never got the chance to go until recently. For a while it seemed that Izakaya (Japanese Tapas) restaurants were all the rage. Everyone and their grandmas were opening up Izakaya restaurants. My only gripe with these style restaurants is that there is more pictures for me to take. Although I really enjoy photographing all my meals, sometimes it gets tiring. Occasionally, Mrs. Gohan has to remind me to take a picture. Once in awhile I get ahead of myself and I want to start eating before snapping....a photograph.

On this occasion, me, "Mrs. Gohan", and "Baby Gohan" joined a very good friend of ours to have a nice dinner. Knowing that it can get a bit crowded at times I was a bit worried when I called earlier in the day to procure a reservation. Sadly I was informed that they did not take reservations for small parties, but the person who answered the phone revealed something interesting to me. The person stated that for some reason that they did not have a single reservation for the entire evening, so it should not be any problems getting a table. Even with that knowledge I was still worried. I hate waiting with a passion! And when we arrived we were one of the few patrons in Honda-Ya. What could be wrong? Has the food quality gone bad? Or could it be the sign of the economic times where people are eating out less? Regardless I was both happy and skeptical. Happy that I finally got to try Honda-Ya and I didn't have to wait, but skeptical because the place was so empty.

Regardless of the reasons why it was so empty, the quality of food was quite nice! To be honest I still feel that Musha is better. The amount of choices that were available to us was mind blowing and a bit confusing. I wanted to try so much but only had limited amount of stomach room. Perhaps sometimes offering too much of wide variety compromises food quality. I would have to say though, not a single dish served was a bad dish. Every thing was at least average, although some dishes that sounded absolutely delicious underachieved. All in all, Honda-Ya was worth the try, but I don't feel that it lived up to the hype.

Age-Dashi Mochi
One of my all-time favorites is eating fried mochi (Japanese rice cake). So I was super stoked to see this variation on the menu, but unfortunately this dish failed. For one the dashi (Japanese broth) was just okay and the mochi was not fried enough and lacked a textural difference between the softness and crunchiness that can be accomplished with frying mochi.

Garlic Spinach
This particular dish was slated as one of Honda-Ya's specialties. If they are going to boldly highlight such items as being one of the specialties they should make sure that they are really delectable and delicious. Again I was slightly disappointed with this dish. By no means was this inedible, on the contrary, this dish was not bad but it lacked proper seasoning in my opinion.

Buta Kakuni
I usually love this dish. Everything about Buta Kakuni (Japanese braised pork belly) is comforting. I just love the rich flavor and the melt in your mouth quality that buta kakuni can achieve. Honday-Ya's version was satisfactory but does not even come close to other places like Musha for example.

Deep Fried Soft Shell Crab
Now this dish was a hit! Finally something that thoroughly satisfied all of us. Like I said before all the dishes served that night was definitely satisfactory, only a couple really stood out and the deep fried soft shell crab was one of the stand outs. The crap was nicely fried which was crispy on the outside and succulent on the inside. Very nice!

I just can't help myself. Every time I see yakitori (chicken skewers) items on the menu I have to order some, especially kawa (chicken skin). I just love fatty foods, but this version was very disappointing. It was dry and lack luster. As much as I love kawa I would not order this again.

Miso Nasubi
One of the few healthy food that I actually love....nasubi (Japanese eggplant). Another hit for Honda-Ya. The miso nasubi was actually one of my favorite dishes of the night. The nasubi was nicely cooked and still preserved some of the firmness of the texture of the eggplant and was nicely marinated in their miso sauce.

This dish was also a big disappointment. The sasami (chicken tenderloin) was over cooked and too dry. Not to mention the wasabi that was on the chicken skewers. The wasabi was a bit overpowering.

Pork Belly
Yet another dish that I must order..... and again was I disappointed. Shinsen gumi's version is much better. Honda-Ya's pork belly was again to dry, tough, and lacked proper seasoning. I guess I should have known not to order yakitori dishes here, I should of just ordered off the menu and if I felt like eating yakitori I should have gone to a yakitori restaurant.

Sadly again I should have to stuck to the main menu....and leave yakitori items to a yakitori restaurant. The tsukune (chicken meatball) was poorly executed and can not even compared to other restaurants. I guess you live and learn! or in this eat and learn!

Sesame Fried Chicken
The sesame fried chicken was pretty good. I was expecting a more bold flavored chicken marinated in some type of sesame sauce but what came out was a surprise. This was more like a traditional karaage with sesame seeds. It was very delicious and I would definitely order this again.

Although this was an ordinary tonkatsu (deep fried pork) it was actually one of the better dishes of the night. The panko crust provided a nice crunch and the pork was nice and tender.

Although the zosui (Japanese porridge) was serviceable, I wouldn't recommend it. Perhaps it's just me, but I felt the zosui lacked a depth of flavor which is usually associated with a zosui.

Sesame Ice Cream
Finally after all that food, we still had a little room for dessert. I decided on the sesame ice cream. I just love sesame ice cream because of the intense nutty flavor. It almost has a hint of coffee as well.

333 S Alameda
# 314
Los Angeles, CA 90013

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