Yesterday, November 15th, was my wonderful boyfriend Son’s 26th birthday. With school and everything, I didn’t have the gumption to cook for him this year, so of course I had to take him out. He chose this cute little Japanese restaurant in Tustin called Honda-Ya (556 El Camino Real, Tustin, CA 92780 Phone: (714) 832-0081) that an old friend had recommended to him a while ago, but we hadn’t gone to yet.
We arrived around 7:45. There’s a little sign-in sheet on the outside, where you write your name, how many people there are, and if you would prefer to sit at a table, at the bar, or Japanese-style on the floor. We decided to sit a table since it was our first time there, and we weren’t sure how comfortable we would be sitting on the floor. We were seated within 20 minutes of signing in, which was pretty good for how busy it was there. We got this little table in the corner, which had a nice view of an itsy-bitsy garden outside. I liked it because I”m super shy, and where we were no one could really see us.
When you are seated, the waitress brings out these dishes of pickled cucumbers with red pepper flakes. They are more subtle than American pickles (which I”m not too fond of)… I thought these were really good.
There are lots of small dishes that you can order, including sushi, sashimi, yakitori, etc. We ordered five different dishes: yellowtail roll, Super California roll, Takoyaki, Crab Shumai, and Cheese Age.
The yellowtail roll was alright. I usually eat yellowtail as nigiri, so I think the nori took away from my enjoyment of it a bit. I didn’t like this as much as I thought I would. The Super California roll was your typical California Roll, with a slice of teriyaki unagi on top. These were really good. I ended up eating most of these! We were also having some fun with wasabi with our sushi. As always, the maki came with a bit of horseradish “wasabi”. This time though, we had some real wasabi to compare it with (this was one of my birthday presents to Son ). Son said he preferred to real wasabi to the fake stuff… although just as spicy, there wasn’t as much of a kick right when you put it in your mouth… instead it had a calmer taste.
The Takoyaki are fried balls of octopus (I was going to say octopus balls, but then I realized how wrong that sounds) with a tonkatsu sauce (which tasted like BBQ sauce) drizzled on top and something flaky sprinkled on that… I’m thinking parmesan cheese, but I’m really not sure at all. Could have been fish flakes for all I know. These were served with mayo and red pickled ginger. I was kinda meh about them… they weren’t bad, but not something I would order again. Son didn’t really go for them much either… he says they were too salty (I was shocked when he said this… he loves salt on his foods!) I think the saltiness detracted from the overall flavor though, which is why they weren”t so great.
Son absolutely loved the Crab Shumai. This is similar to something you might find at a dim sum place… nicely sized crab dumplings with shredded crab on the top. These came with a clump of yellowish stuff, that tasted like wasabi. I wasn’t too fond of these… Son said they tasted kind of like Durian (an Asian fruit) which I can”t stand the smell or taste of, which might explain why I didn’t like these.
Our last dish was the Cheese Age. These consisted of nacho cheese and jalapeños inside a fried wonton skin, on top of a small salad. I loved these! Even though they really aren’t so Japanese, I thought they were really good. I may just try to replicate them at home, so there might be my version of a recipe posted eventually.
Overall, we had a fantastic dinner. The entire bill, including tax, tip, and a Sprite, came out to less than $40. Plus, Honda-Ya is open until 1am, so it’s a great late-night place. Next time we go there, we would probably sit Japanese-style on the ground, to get the full experience. We would definitely order the Super California Roll, the Crab Shumai, and the Cheese Age again, and try a few other things to see what else is good there. If you are ever in old Tustin, I definitely recommend Honda-Ya!
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