Food Issue - Around the world: Japan

Shoya Izakaya's high spirits

Thursday October 21, 2010 04:00 am EDT

The massive shopping center that houses BrandsMart and Super H Mart Doraville is an unlikely place for Atlanta's most authentically Japanese experience. Entering the sturdy wooden doors of Shoya Izakaya feels like you've walked into a portal that's transported you straight to Japan. An echoing chorus of traditional Japanese greetings hits you from all sides; the unmistakable aroma of pork belly and chicken sizzling over binchotan coals lets your stomach know you're in for something stupendous.

Cozy into the smooth wood booths on either of the two levels and get yourself acquainted with the immense menu full of every Japanese delicacy imaginable (and enough alcohol to satiate even the most discerning drunk). Earthenware carafes and matching cups keep your Japanese draft beer chilly. Huge halves of the citrus fruit of your choice arrive with a juicer and a tall glass filled with ice and deceptively strong barley shochu. You squeeze and mix at the table.

Since this is a Japanese-style pub, the food is made to accompany the formidable selection of drinks. Start with a little something raw such as the delicate flounder usuzukuri (flounder sashimi served with ponzu sauce) so masterfully sliced it's almost transparent, or a hand roll overflowing with creamy orange uni so fresh you'd swear it was caught that morning. Go with something fried next like the chewy squid legs served with pale yellow Japanese mayo or juicy oysters so big you'll need two bites. One of Shoya's signature dishes, the kushiyaki, offers an assortment of nearly every vegetable and meat imaginable impaled on bamboo skewers and carefully cooked over the special grill. Finish the feast with a soothing bowl of Shoya's tonkotsu ramen, a milky pork bone broth studded with slices of chopstick-tender pork, chewy noodles, seaweed and sweet bamboo shoots. It's not exactly a trip to Japan, but a visit to Shoya could be considered the next best thing.

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