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Izakaya Honda Ya - Little Tokyo

We finally made it to Honda Ya last night, which we have been looking forward to try. To start at the end, most of us were rather disappointed with the food and didn't feel that it was anything special, especially considering the price tag for the relatively small portions....

Maybe we went to Honda Ya with expectations that were simply too high after reading all the other mouthwatering reviews of fellow Chowhounders. Upon our arrival we had to wait more than 1 hour to be seated, which is no big deal considering the place is fairly new and hot. The staff was very friendly and the place itself has a rather nice ambiance. We went there with 5 people and must have eaten for 10... even the staff was laughing when we kept reordering time after time, which we felt was crucial in order to get a good idea of the food.

They start you out with pickled cucumbers which are terrific. Asparagus Maki (Yakitori) was good, spinach w/pork as well as the crab shumai were great. We found both of their eggplant dishes (one w/daikon radish and the other one grilled (supposedly) w/benito flakes) rather bland and nothing special at all. The pork belly Yakitori was terrific and very tasty. A must try in my opinion was the wasabi octopus... what a nice combination of flavors and texture. The pork with potato and other vegetables was joke... we are taking about a 1" x .5" pork strip. Chicken meatballs were average compared to other Yakitory places. We also got the ginger pork and another pork dish with pickled mushrooms/cabbage (sorry, can't remember exactly) which were good but far too greasy (and we don't usually mind greasy)... any of the deep fried stuff (oysters, jalapeƱos, cheddar cheese) was nothing special as well... just your average deep fried Japanese equivalent of American Sports bar food. The scallion pancake was definitely not the best we have ever had. The grilled garlic was nice, but nothing you couldn't do at home to be honest. A few of the dishes I inquired about, the waitress told me to stay away from because she didn't think that it was very good. I very much appreciate that kind of honesty but it made me wonder even more about Honda Ya.

We had several more dishes that I cannot remember at the moment, but none of us was especially impressed by what Honda Ya had to offer. We all agreed that Musha (especially the one in Torrance) blows Honda Ya away any given day, and even Westside Yakitori places, such as Sakkura House offer much better Yakitori than Honda Ya.

All in all I think that our expectations might just have been to high. If you have never experienced that kind of Japanese food you will probably be satisfied with the place, but if you have had the privilege of tasting similar food before, then I just don't think that this is the best place to go to.....

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  1. I am very interested to try this type of food, what would your favourite place be to go in Little Tokyo?

    1 Reply
    1. Well, we'll agree to disagree. Musha's nice and all, but I prefer the food at Honda Ya.

      Part of doing well at Honda Ya means parsing the menu for the clunkers. Your hit some clunkers, sorry about that. You also hit a few good ones (crab shumai, bacon wrapped grilled anything, most of the grilled kushiyaki things, buta no kakuni, ika natto, are always on my order). Don't do the things that should be done by a specialist shop: ramen, udon, sashimi & sushi, okonimiyaki etc.

      Part of the problem is that Honda Ya has a huge menu, where Musha has a much tigher menu. But tighter doesn't equal better. Overall I still prefer Honda Ya. Your mileage varies. Such is life.

      1 Reply
      1. re: Professor Salt

        i'll have to agree with the good professor here. i was actually at honda-ya last night as well (probably a bit later, towards the end of the evening)... when it comes to izakaya, i tend to stick to stuff like the yakitori, etc. in that sense, i think the place is fine... it's not shinsengumi but few things in life are, and for little tokyo, you can't do much better (not a word out of you izayoi fans, that's a whole different ballgame - upscale, pricier, run by an ex-sushi guy, they close at 10pm...) i basically prefer a much more rustic sort of experience, a place i can stumble out of a couple hours past midnight, and into a karaoke box next door hehe.

        as for musha, i think it all boils down to taste. the place is much more fusiony (fusion by way of japan), which typically isn't quite my speed, although i'll hit it for the vibe every now and then.

        if anything, my main complaint with the new honda-ya is its location. the old mitsuwa mall just needs a bit more action and atmosphere. hopefully that will come in time.

      2. I love Honda-ya but you have to know what to order. Their menu is too diverse and some of their best picks have been pointed out with little red stars on their menu. I certainly dont think they need anyone's help with getting more business bc there is always a wait to eat there but I have to rate it as one of the best places in the OC to eat Japanses 'tapas'.

        1. Went to Honda Ya last night and had a great time. While ramen should obviously be left for a proper ramen shop, I thought their kyushu was pretty good. Had the yellowtail and salmon cheeks (yellowtail was the more excellent of the two) and also had the natto zosui, the crab shumai and the ankimo (which looked like it was bought downstairs at Mitsuwa and then put in a bowl). Of those, I'd order the crab shumai and the yellowtail cheeks again, but I'll have a lot of fun parsing the large menu for favorites.

          Honda Ya Izakaya
          333 S Alameda St, Los Angeles, CA 90013

          3 Replies
          1. re: SauceSupreme

            what the heck is kyushu? Kyushu is a geographical location (i.e. island) in southern Japan....

            1. re: tu_triky

              Kyushu ramen - someone like rameniac would be better to expound. I only said that because that's what it was called on the menu.

              1. re: SauceSupreme

                honda-ya has a kyushu ramen on their menu? i usually stick to the yakitori section at izakaya... anyway if they're calling it "kyushu ramen" it probably means it's a tonkotsu soup, and i'm guessing they throw on some red ginger in the hakata-style... am i close, sauce? guess i should try it...

          2. Has anyone tried both the Honda-Ya in Tustin/OC, and the Little Tokyo branch? I'm curious how they compare.

            The old OC/Tustin location's quality is truly mediocre compared to Kappo Honda and Shin Sen Gumi (same region).


            2 Replies
            1. re: exilekiss

              I actually prefer the food @ Honda Ya in Tustin over Kappo Honda. Different strokes....

              1. re: exilekiss

                I definitely prefer the Tustin Honda-Ya over the Little Tokyo branch. I think the food is much better over there...And I also like the atmosphere more. I have only been to the Little Tokyo outpost once, and it was just after they opened up there - so I am going to have to try again..

              2. I went a couple of days ago after work and I have to say that I really enjoyed this place. I've never been to the other Honda-Ya but I've been to a bunch of izakayas in japan and this one is jsut as good.

                Here is what we ordered:

                Asparagus Maki (y)
                Shitake Mushrooms (y)
                Chicken Livers (y)
                Meatballs (y)
                Buta (y)
                Tomato with Bacon (y)
                Tuna, Avacado Salad
                Sweetfish tempura (sadine size fish fried whole)
                Agae Cheese

                We ordered more but I can't seem to recall. All the yakitori was was delicious, especially with kirin. Service was prompt and attentive. We got there at 5:40PM and it was empty. By the time we left, the place started getting filled with nihonjen, which I take as a good sign.

                We didn't like the sweet fish tempura but the Avacado and Tuna salad was great. Bill was $60 but we ordered enough for 4 people .

                1. Do they take reservations for parties larger than 5? does anyone know? i plan to go with a group for my b-day.

                  1. We ended up trying out the Little Tokyo branch of Honda-Ya last week (for a B-day) and we came away pretty disappointed.

                    I think the key problem is that they simply have too many menu items. The more dishes a restaurant tries to support / maintain, the more they get spread too thin. This Honda-Ya's menu is enormous, and the quality of food suffers, IMHO.

                    The highlight of the evening would have to be their Kushiyaki / Yakitori menu. You can see that "segment" of the kitchen out in the open, and the Kushiyaki cooks slaving away. All the skewers we ordered were decent to good, but nowhere near Shin Sen Gumi status. The best was probably the Tomato wrapped in Bacon skewer.

                    It went downhill from there: Their standard Izakaya dishes failed horribly. The Buta Kakunin (Stewed Pork) was tough and really chunky meat (not the normally, incredibly soft texture that it should be).

                    Their Fried dishes were even worse, tasting of "old, reused oil" for deep-frying everything that evening. The Fried Octopus, Chicken (and one other fried dish we got which I've removed from my memory) were really unpleasant to eat and we couldn't finish it. Even the old standard of "Agedashi Tofu" (Fried Tofu with Bonito Flakes) turned out to be an overly oily, mushy mess (their sister restaurant in Fountain Valley, Kappo Honda, is far superior to this one).

                    The Takoyaki was a doughy, mushy mess, lacking any of the correct exterior normally found in Octopus Meatballs.

                    Their Kyushu Ramen (I've never seen this anywhere in LA before, so figured we'd try it) was HORRIBLE. That's what I get for ordering Ramen in an Izakaya I guess, but stay far away! :(

                    Ultimately, if you're in the Little Tokyo area, you could do worse (and better) than Honda-Ya. It's a big location, energetic and rowdy, and it has a HUGE menu with items all over the spectrum. But for my group of Chowhounders that have frequented all the major players in the OC / South Bay / West Side areas, Honda-Ya Little Tokyo is not worth the trip.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: exilekiss

                      My Little Tokyo food adventures have been limited to sushi (Sushi Gen, Sushi Go 55, Sushi Komasa), Ramen (Daikokuya), Gyoza (they're heavenly at Little Tokyo Cafe, and just the right appetizer to get while waiting for a table at Daikokuya), Kokkekoko (outrageously expensive and way too cliquish for my taste) and the random mochi, bun or fried fish thingy from Japanese Village. I generally go to Shinsengumi on Western for my izakaya fixes. Where would you go in Littly Tokyo for the best izakaya? (with the understanding that it wont be as delicious as SSG?) And what's the price point?

                      Mr Taster

                    2. Briefly, we've been going to the Tustin branch for 10 yr or more and tried the Little Tokyo one last night for the first time. We're disappointed overall. We had mostly yakitori, a few stir-fried and deep-fried items. Only the soft-shell crab @ Little Tokyo was better than @ Tustin. Most items were worse (mainly yakitori).

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: apfb

                        I agree. Tried to LA location twice, only to be disappointed. Usually make a bi-weekly trip to the Tustin branch and it's always solid. Would like to try Kappo Honda in Fountain Valley.