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Jan 24, 2009 10:43 AM

The Open Door Japanese Izakaya - Hidden Gem in the SGV

Located in a strip mall on the SW corner of Garvey Ave/Atlantic Blvd in Monterey Park is a discrete Japanese Izakaya restaurant serving great food at great prices with great service – The Open Door Japanese Izakaya Restaurant.

Izakaya in SGV? Hmmm…we had to try it so I planned a post Christmas get-together for 10 of my friends. I must say I was totally impressed by the set up of the restaurant, the ambiance, the food and the hospitality from the staff. The restaurant has an authentic feel with a live sakura tree in the middle of the restaurant, hand painted walls and dark stained wood benches. The restaurant is tiny; we managed to take up one third of the place. They serve Japanese beers and sake, wine and flavored shochu (chu-hi). We drank all the large Sapporo’s they had; they were nice enough to give us two small bottles for the same price. We seemingly ordered everything on the menu and the food just kept coming out like clockwork. The food was beautifully presented, especially the sashimi dishes. Most importantly the food was cooked to perfection. The quality of ingredients used in the dishes is unheard of in the area, from truffle oil to homemade ponzu. They even use premium Kuro edamame. Their wasabi isn’t that radioactive green stuff served at other sushi places; it’s the actual thing from wasabi root.

First off, the servers at this place are great. They are friendly, accommodating and went the extra mile to make sure everyone was satisfied. The chef made an appearance as well to see how we were doing and what we thought of the food.

More importantly the food was divine; not every dish was mind bogglingly good but even the standard dishes were well executed and done with a little twist to make them stand out.

Braised Short ribs w/ Potato (aka meat and potatoes) – Absolutely delicious. The short rib is cooked flawlessly; long enough to make the beef tender but not long enough to make the meat taste like mush. The broth that it’s braised in is amazing.

Miso Cod (my gf’s favorite) – cooked perfectly with a silky smooth texture and a hint of sweetness.

Braised Pork Belly – Done very well; the pork belly was tender with the flavor from the stew permeating the alternating layers of fat and meat.

Shishito Peppers w/ miso dressing – Perfectly fried sweet peppers flavored wonderfully with a miso dressing

Fried Chicken w/ Ponzu – Boneless fried chicken w/ some sort of tartar sauce on top. It sounds plain but the combination of crispy chicken w/ the sauce and some beer is awesome.

Hamachi Carpa – Superb dish. I love hamachi as it is but the chef’s little twist on this dish makes it outstanding.

Tuna Poke – Fresh tasting, little cubes of tuna; perfectly seasoned w/ ponzu, onions and kelp

Yuzu Whitefish – Beautiful dish and wonderful tasting. The whitefish just melts in your mouth.

Salmon shiso pesto – the pesto gives the salmon a nice earthy taste and goes nicely with the delicate salmon.

Crispy Rice Tuna – another one of my gf’s favorites. The crispy rice on the bottom perfectly balances the soft, creamy texture of the tuna

Albacore with gochujang miso – The texure and flavor of this dish is amazing. The albacore melts in your mouth.

Soft shell crab – They have this both in a roll and as is. We chose the latter and it was satisfying. Nothing too special, but fried foods and beer is a good combination.

Beef Tataki – seared beef, sliced with a ponzu dipping sauce. Good dish with the beef seared to a medium rare and nicely presented.

Truffle butter Edamame – Compliments of the chef =) I’m not a huge fan of coating things with butter but it gave the edamame a nice change of flavor from the traditional boil in salt water flavor. My friend who loves butter loved this dish.

Truffle tater tots – Odd seeing tater tots on the menu but what the hell. Reminded of when I was in elementary school, but prepared in a more adult manner w/ the truffle oil and garlic crème fraiche, which was rich and tasty

Shimano (smelt) – These were the biggest smelt I’ve ever seen. No wonder they only give 2 in an order. This was a favorite on our table. Nothing goes better with beer than deep fried, crispy fish.

Spicy Rock Shrimp Tempura – This was actually a surprisingly good dish. I’m not a big fan of mayonnaise shrimp but the one here is not as heavy or greasy as the Chinese version. The shrimp are flawlessly fried then coated with a spicy mayo giving it a nice kick.

Fried Chicken Wings – The wings are fried to a nice crisp then tossed in a sweet chili sauce. Once, again goes perfectly with beer or sake.

This is welcome change to the vast amounts of Chinese/Vietnamese restaurants in the area. I’m still in shock that there’s something like this in the area. I can’t wait to go back to try out other things on the menu like the rolls and other specials on the board. I'm sad I didn't bring a camera! Enjoy!

The Open Door Japanese Izakaya Restaurant
122 S Atlantic Blvd
Monterey Park, CA 91754
(626) 282-9829
Hours: Tuesday-Sunday 5:00pm-10:00pm; Closed Mondays

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  1. Sounds great, thanks for the report!

    3 Replies
    1. re: Chowpatty

      thanks! this is my first review. I've been lurking on these boards for awhile and have read very informative reviews and been to great restaurants based on recommendations from the chowhound community...

      1. re: slomosi

        "Located in a strip mall on the SW corner of Garvey Ave/Atlantic Blvd in Monterey Park ,,,,," is an empty lot, maybe you mean the SE corner?

        1. re: Mr. Roboto

 are correct! it's the SE corner!!!!!! sorry...

    2. And just imagine, it's been open for less than a month.

      Just wait until it gets its sea legs ...

      1. Ooh, thanks so much! great review.

        1. Sounds like you have a very hearty appetite to order so much for one person. :-) Thanks for the review.

          3 Replies
            1. re: raytamsgv

              haha...wasn't of 10 of us....

              1. re: slomosi

                thanks for the recommendation. what are the prices like?

            2. Sounds great, thanks for the review. I'll definitely have to try it out soon :)