Word of mouth is doing good things for Shoyu Sushi, a great new restaurant in the northeast. Reader David Irvine tipped me off to the eatery, which opened in April across from BC’s Memorial Stadium in a shopping center that’s also home to a Mexican restaurant and a Tony’s Pizza.

He had particular praise for the hostess/owner known as “Dr. Michelle (not really a doctor)" who he described as "one of the friendliest persons you’ll ever meet. She is upbeat, greeting every customer as they come in and also after you’re seated.” He had a lot of kind words about the sushi and the chicken teriyaki that his non-sushi-eating son enjoyed.

Irvine didn’t exaggerate. The staff here makes it more like a party than a night out for sushi, and our hostess is the key ingredient. When we were seated, she introduced herself and noticed right away that some of us weren’t regulars. First-timers get special treatment: We were given — just as Irvine before was — a large bowl of amazing garlic edamame (usually $4.99) as a welcome gift. Newbies were also, at some point in the evening, brought some sake for a toast to the day. Ours, Michelle noted, was made with Korean rice. It was a bit cloudy but much smoother than some sake we’ve had in the past. She dragged a party of three sitting near us into the mid-meal sake toast. You’ll make new friends in this place.

The male in the party of three was a regular and joked with Michelle about posting a Yelp review on the spot. At one point in the evening he told me that a must-order is whatever the chef’s special is that night, fondly remembering some mushroom roll creation he’d been given on a previous visit. “Don’t even ask what it is — you’ll just love it,” he said. Irvine had also praised the fresh wasabi Shoyu offers, but the real star to me was the house-made soy sauce. Unbelievably great. I know that soy sauce can be so brackish, even the low sodium kind I’ve bought in stores for home use, but the sauce here had none of that and was fragrant and a spectacular flavor enhancer on anything. I’m going back to try the shrimp fried rice ($11.95) just to see how it would taste with this soy sauce. When was the last time that soy sauce made a favorable impression on you?

On this evening we ordered an avocado roll ($5) from the house roll list, jalapeno salmon ($10.99) from the fresh roll list and shrimp killer ($10.99) from the tempura roll list. The menu has about a dozen or few in each category but also offers boats for large parties, traditional sashimi, bento boxes, entrees, noodles and some Korean food.

Now I think the food was excellent, but you have to wonder at one point does all the friendliness influence the taste buds? The avocado roll was simple, like avocado toast, but so satisfying, especially dipped in that soy sauce. It’s heaven, I tell ya. The salmon had spicy mixed fish inside, excellent salmon on top attached with avocado and a thinly-sliced jalapeno ring on top. Very simple, but clean and effective. The shrimp killer had tempura shrimp, avocado and crab meat inside, shrimp and avocado on top. I’d order that again, too, though the spicy poki roll I saw at a nearby table (which Irvine has ordered and liked) looked good. My companion thought it a good sign the next morning when she woke up and the rings on her finger were lose. Sometimes after eating sushi that’s not the case, which she chalked up to the chef’s judicious use of salt.

For dessert we can recommend the mochi ice cream ($3.99), those popular ice cream balls rolled in a cornstarch/rice powder paste. What makes it special here are the four flavors used: vanilla, mango, green tea and strawberry. Each different, going from one to another keeps your tongue on high alert.

One warning: The place was packed when we visited on a weekend night. Two empty tables when we arrived. You may have a wait. The interior has pea green walls with fans and dried flower arrangements and a collection of ceramic pigs on the shelf near the sushi bar. The business is well-staffed, with all sorts of folks hustling to deliver the food, but always with a smile and minimal stress.

Shoyu Sushi can be recommended for a fine dining experience.

Do you have a tip, question or recommendation on Bakersfield restaurants, trends or food news in general? Email him at pftittl@yahoo.com.

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