Thursday, October 13, 2016

Honda-Ya: Still Crazy After All These Years

Honda-Ya was the first restaurant I ever reviewed. I wrote the review on the old Chowhound message board exactly 13 years ago on this date, October 13.

When I started the blog you are reading now, I archived that first write-up here.

If you read that review, you'd notice that it was just a list of what I had during that first visit to Honda-Ya, with barely any commentary and not even a picture. If you know anything about me (or heard that podcast interview by The Bull and The Badger a few months ago), you'll know that when I wrote it, I had no intention of becoming a food writer. What I was doing was just jotting down what I had and how much I paid for it--it was a journal entry, mostly.

Yelp, at the time, had not been invented.


But that post, and this restaurant, ended up being a seminal one for me--not only fostering my love (nay, obsession) for Japanese food, but also spawning more Chowhound write-ups, which led to Monster Munching, and then the OC Weekly gig.

And it is a testament to Honda-Ya that it's still the same and still popular after all these years--like a stone monument in the middle of a city on fast-forward.

I went again for the first time in years and it felt the same as the first time I stepped in there 13 years ago. The old tatami room still requires that you take your shoes off. The paper lanterns still wobble whenever a breeze is let in from the open door. And the potato salad is still cool and light.

More importantly, the robata-grilled sticks of quail eggs and chicken meatballs are still smoky and sweet; and the deep-fried soft shells--a favorite of mine, even from day one--are still crispy and gnarled, served with a bowl of tart ponzu.

But on this visit, I saw a few new dishes that I've never seen before, like strips of jellyfish laced with uni, served atop a flotilla of sliced cucumbers, lemon and a shiso leaf.

Still, the more things change, the more they stay the same: the sushi was just as I remembered--not very good. Honda-Ya has never been the place to get sushi. On this visit, the buta kakuni was also disappointing. The pork belly pieces were as dry as jerky despite being simmered in soy and mirin for hours.


After that throwback dinner and as I write this, I am again reevaluating what I want to do with this blog in the coming years. I'm reminded that it has outlasted a lot of the restaurants reviewed within it. But as wordless Instagram food pics and other snazzier forms of media supplant food review blogs like this one, am I crazy for keeping it alive?

For now I've decided that yes, I am still crazy. I'll continue this as long as at least one person is reading--even if I'm only counting myself as that person. After all, that's how all this started: I wrote that first post for myself.

I know one thing for sure, though: Whatever happens, Honda-Ya will outlive us all. Long live Honda-Ya!

Honda Ya Japanese Restaurant
(714) 832-0081
556 El Camino Real
Tustin, CA 92780

THIS WEEK ON OC WEEKLY:
Wursthaus - Santa Ana

28 Comments:

At 7:42 AM, Blogger OC Paul said...

I'm still reading! Your blogs are actually on MyYahoo start page! Keep it up!

 
At 9:19 AM, Blogger Greg Hao said...

If you post, you know I'll definitely read!

 
At 2:45 PM, Anonymous wildpig said...

I love reading your blog, keep it pls~

 
At 4:13 PM, Blogger OCEater said...

Edwin, Congrats on 13 years. You are one of my inspirations, and one of the reasons I started my own restaurant review blog. I read every one of your posts and articles in OC Weekly. Glad you are still crazy enough to keep it alive. I really look forward to it. Keep up the great work.

 
At 8:46 PM, Blogger Anthony Chan said...

I'm still reading! Keep up the good work!

 
At 10:56 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Still reading--I enjoy reading your blog and learning about new (to me) restaurants to try and which dishes to order!

 
At 2:56 AM, Blogger Ernie said...

I still read every one of your posts! All of the new food places I try are places that you've written about. Thanks for all you efforts!

 
At 1:20 PM, Blogger KirkK said...

Still crazy after all these years! And I'm still reading too.

 
At 5:53 PM, Blogger Paul Stone said...

I love your writing, and I've visited quite a few places based on your recommendation.

I like the passion that you have for tasty food, and I appreciate your efforts. Even if you don't have time for it any more, your existing reviews can still remain and be useful for years to come. (But, hopefully you will still have time to continue reviewing.)

All the best, :-)

 
At 7:40 AM, Blogger elmomonster said...

OC Paul,

Oh wow! I had no idea you could add blogs to the MyYahoo start page! Thanks for adding mine and for reading all these years!

 
At 7:41 AM, Blogger elmomonster said...

Greg,

Thank you, my friend! And thank you for reading! Hope things are well in Taiwan! Someday, I will visit!

 
At 7:41 AM, Blogger elmomonster said...

wildpig,

Thank you! I will! I had no idea how many people were still reading until yours and all these other comments starting coming through! I'm so glad to know I'm not talking into an empty room!

 
At 7:41 AM, Blogger elmomonster said...

OCEater,

Thank you so much for your kind words! That means a lot to me. I've been lurking your blog for years, by the way! Love your work!

 
At 7:42 AM, Blogger elmomonster said...

Anthony,

Thank you for your comment! I'll certainly try to keep going! And thank you for reading!

 
At 7:42 AM, Blogger elmomonster said...

Anonymous,

Thank you for the flattering words! And for your trust with new restaurants and new dishes!

 
At 7:42 AM, Blogger elmomonster said...

Ernie,

Thank you for reading all these years and for trusting me enough that you try these places! Hope to keep sharing the good ones for as long as there are good ones to share! :-)

 
At 7:42 AM, Blogger elmomonster said...

Kirk,

Thank you, sir! You are the OG food blogger and taught me a lot about Japanese food. Mmm-yoso is still my go-to resource for all things foodie in San Diego (and Hawaii)!

 
At 7:43 AM, Blogger elmomonster said...

Paul,

Thank you so much for taking the time to comment and for all the very nice things you said! Good thing is I also enjoy reading the old blog posts. To me, they're like an old photo album of memories! Glad to know that they're also useful! Thank you for reading!

 
At 10:38 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I check in every Sunday for new entries.

 
At 5:20 PM, Blogger elmomonster said...

Thanks, Anon! I'm hoping I'll have a new post (or two) for you to read before this coming Sunday!

 
At 10:45 PM, Anonymous Karrie said...

I check in all the time for new posts. Please don't stop. Reading old posts are helpful too.

 
At 1:05 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Keep it up. I enjoy your blog and tried a couple of places that you reviewed. Would not have tried Cream Pan if I didn't see it on your blog.

 
At 11:53 AM, Anonymous eaterdeltustin said...

Keep going!

 
At 7:55 AM, Blogger elmomonster said...

Karrie,

Thank you for the comment! I'll keep it up for as long as I can! I'm now very encouraged to keep going as I hear people like you are still reading this thing!

 
At 7:57 AM, Blogger elmomonster said...

Anonymous,

I'm so glad to hear that you tried cream Cream Pan because of the blog! I hope there are more places like that to discover in the future. Thank you so much for your kind words!

 
At 7:57 AM, Blogger elmomonster said...

eaterdeltustin,

I will! Thank you for the comment and for reading this blog all these years!

 
At 9:36 AM, Blogger mpken said...

ElmoMonster,

Glad to know the fire still burns. After many years of reading your posts and blog, I still look forward to reading the next expression of culinary appreciation and insights. Thank you.

 
At 4:09 PM, Blogger elmomonster said...

Ken,

Thank you so much for the kind comment and for reading all these years! Yours and everyone else's votes of confidence means a lot to me and keeps me going! So thanks for taking the time to write in!

 

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