A couple of years ago Shoyu Sushi made an impressive debut across from Bakersfield College’s Memorial Stadium, and late last year they opened a second location in the northwest on Calloway Drive.
It’s more of the same from an outfit notable for making their own soy sauce, now located in what has previously been Sushi Moon. We’ve loved the classy ambiance since it opened as the Hourglass Kitchen & Bar many years ago, and thankfully changes have been minimal so it still has the right vibe for a great date night.
On the night we visited, there was a large party of about 30 celebrating a birthday, and several smaller parties, including us. The interior gives them the flexibility to accommodate various size parties, the staff (as at the northeast location) is relentlessly upbeat but it’s not a cover for inferior sushi or a slim menu. They have pretty much everything you want: bento boxes at lunch; fresh, baked or tempura fried rolls; and lots of entrées if you prefer something like short ribs or bibimbap, ramen, rice, just about anything you desire.
We went for one roll from each of the roll lists: the playboy fresh roll ($12.95), the Mars tempura roll ($14.95) and the dragon baked roll ($14.95). The freshness was at the top for everything, and the combinations were deeply satisfying. The playboy was a simple creation with crab, avocado and cucumber inside and salmon, avocado and the thinnest of lemon slices on top. My companion thought the touch of the lemon was perfect as we ate it rind and all, and that was the first roll to completely disappear. Avocado inside and outside was not overkill, and it’s perfect with either crab or salmon.
Mars was no piker, with a healthy serving of shredded spicy crab and crunchy bits on top of a very thin tempura crust the encased the rice, crab, avocado and shrimp. It was visually the most assertive thing we ordered. The crab has always been a plus at Shoyu. Very clean and fresh tasting. My favorite was probably the baked roll, though the dragon with its tempting filling of spicy tuna, avocado and shrimp tempura on the inside, and fresh water eel and avocado on the outside. My companion is not a fan of eel, probably due to an antipathy for snakes and their ilk rather than any specific taste. The eel here was, like the lemon mentioned above, very thinly sliced, which made for an effective presentation and balance of tastes and textures. I think it tastes light and sweet like many shellfish (some might say boring), but it’s a clean flavor and a nice balance to the seafood inside this roll.
There are other plusses about the place. The wine list is extremely diverse, though I was troubled by the absence of prices (maybe a paper insert might accommodate changing prices and supplies). We mentioned the service, though they were a tad tardy bringing us those small plates you like to use for the sushi pieces when moved from the serving platter. They’re prone to bring out free little dishes like cucumber kimchi that was as good as you get at any Korean place. The five fried rices are outstanding, though we have a preference for the shrimp ($14.95). And if you’re in a mood for Korean, you can’t go wrong with the short ribs ($22.95) or the spicy pork ($14.95). There are a dozen lunch bentos available on weekdays that we’ll be trying on our next visit. And given how impressed we’ve been with the freshness of the product at both locations, there will be a next time.
Pete Tittl’s Dining Out column appears in The Californian on Sundays. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.