Best Japanese Restaurant Orange County 2007 - Honda-Ya
Being that Honda-Ya is a pub, it's not open for lunch. But come 5:30 p.m., the beer starts to flow, and it doesn't stop till 1 a.m. The best seats are in the tatami room, where you sit cross-legged on a woven mat of reeds. Start the evening by ordering one of the Big Three beers: Sapporo, Kirin or Asahi. Then order some food, which you choose from a menu designed for grazing. As Honda-Ya is a proper izakaya (a Japanese pub/restaurant), the portions are as small as tapas. Most dishes are listed by cooking method, ranging from the deep-fried, to the simmered to the grilled and the steamed. Grilled yellowtail collar, crisply fried soft-shell crab, button-cute steamed dumplings filled with fish mousse, and teriyaki chicken can be had. Although you can get sushi, why bother when you can get it anywhere? Instead, opt for the skewered kushiyaki, produced by the grill master, whose lungs are probably jet-black after years of inhaling the emissions of the binchotan, the best charcoal in the world. But the expenses (and his health sacrifices) are worth the flavor that the ribbons of smoke impart to any food cooked over it. Quail eggs threaded on a stick, for one, get a carbon-laced complexity and subtle sweetness so thrilling it's hard to believe?a flavor impossible to get from your Kingsford grill (believe me, I've tried).