Monday, February 01, 2010

Japonaise Bakery & Cafe's Soy Sauce and Butter Spaghetti - Tustin

There are some ingredients that just work naturally together. Olive oil and balsamic. Milk and eggs. Peanut butter and jelly.

But soy sauce and butter? On pasta? Believe or not, it's a pairing short of heaven sent. And who might have attempted this? Some world-renowned molecular gastronomic alchemist?


The Japanese.

In this case, the second coming of Tustin's Japonaise Bakery & Cafe, which has recently been transformed into a donburi/pasta/curry joint.

It should be no surprise however. It was, after all, Japanese experimentalists dabbling in east-meets-west fusion that has given us such dishes like uni spaghetti and mentaiko pasta (which is also on the menu, by the way).

But until this dish, I never heard of soy sauce and butter being uttered in the same breath, much less occupying the same plate. Together they amount to a pasta sauce that has a surplus of umami, the fifth flavor -- a word also coined by the Japanese, which loosely translates to "savory delicious."

The butter rounds out the soy sauce's saltiness; and the soy keeps the butter from becoming too rich. And then there are the sauteed mushrooms, which soak up and marry the two flavors in an even more concentrated form inside themselves.

Slices of breast meat chicken were also in the dish. But the fact that they were slightly overcooked can be easily forgiven because of the goodness that surrounded them -- soy sauce plus butter equals culinary kismet.

Japonaise Bakery & Cafe
600 El Camino Real
Tustin, CA 92780
(714) 665-8239

Valhalla Table - Costa Mesa


At 12:18 PM, Blogger Unknown said...

I am so there. Many many years ago at Abe (pre Bluefin) Takashi Abe served my king crab claw with melted butter and soy. I was a sceptic until the first taste Wow. Now whenever I eat crab legs I also ask for a side of soy with my drawn butter.

At 12:48 PM, Blogger elmomonster said...


I can see that. Crustaceans would work well with these flavors. Be warned though that Japonaise, like other Japanese restaurants, is closed on Mondays. Also they close up by 2:30 p.m. when they are open.

At 1:41 PM, Blogger KirkK said...

Hey Elmo - This is something my Mom used to make when we didn't have much in the house! Sort of the Japanese version of "butter noodles".

At 1:58 PM, Blogger Juliet said...

I won't knock it until I've tried it. But that sounds kind of gross. But then, my hormones are totally messing with my appetite. Don't mind me.

At 2:28 PM, Anonymous Dave -nibbleanibble said...

What a perfect blend of little goodies.

At 5:35 PM, Blogger EatTravelEat said...

I've never heard of this combo before. It sounds weird at first but I can see how they can work :). Mushrooms, chicken, and butter are a nice combo, and so is mushrooms, chicken, and soy sauce.

Don't know what do to what mentaiko though. Got some, but just not to my taste (or so I think, as it was frozen from the "most" famous manufacturer of it in the world).

At 8:05 PM, Blogger imjustatree said...

i was just in this area getting some strawberry croissants from cream pan! btw how much was it? it sounds pretty good and i will try this place out the next time i swing by tustin. unami!

At 9:07 PM, Blogger Dennis K. said...

Butter and shoyu on a hot bowl of rice is a fatso's heaven! :)

At 10:31 PM, Blogger digkv said...

That sounds like delicious pasta edwin! Wonderful post! I'm surprised that you haven't heard of it before, esp since it was a pretty big thread on chowhound:

I kind of grew up on the stuff even. One of my greatest childhood memories was eating a bowl of fresh warm jasmine rice with butter and Maggi! I find it to be much better tasting with Maggi, you should totally give a it try edwin. Also, did you know there are multiple formulas of maggi? Chinese, American, European, and german to name a few and they do in fact, taste surprisingly different. You should try to get your hands on the german formula if you can (i've seen it at Mattern Sausage), it's infinitely better than the Chinese formula.

At 7:03 AM, Blogger elmomonster said...


I figured it was a common thing in Japanese households. I guess I would've eventually encountered it in my eating outings. Funny enough we had a similar recipe at our house. Except it was with margarine and Worchestershire sauce.


It does sound gross doesn't it? But it works! Really! Perhaps after #3 is born, it'll seem more appetizing.


All that's needed is bread to sop it all up. Actually, bread was included. It is a bakery, after all!


It was really good. But I've made it a point to try the mentaiko there next. It's been a long time since I've had mentaiko pasta. Also, they do donburis, which I'm always a sucker for.


This dish, if I can recall correct, was $6.75. It wasn't more than $8 to be sure. They also have a truffle oil cream sauce pasta for $8.25. And that was the most expensive one.

Check out the abbreviated menu here.


Hmm...I've put butter on rice. I've put soy sauce on rice. But together? Well, if it worked for pasta...


WOW! Chowpatty wrote about it too? I completely missed that post. Thanks! Of course, I'm a denizen of the L.A. boards, rarely venturing over to Home Cooking (since I eat out more than I cook).

I do have a bottle of Maggi I use for everything (fried eggs with Sriracha and Maggi...mmmm). It was Dylan Ho of "Eat Drink and Be Merry" who turned me on to doing it, since he's a Maggi fan boy and collector.

I wonder what country my Maggi's from. I'm bettin' it's Korean or Chinese because I got it at H-Mart. Need to get a hold of that German version you speak of.

At 12:15 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sounds about as tasty as cream cheese in sushi.

At 4:05 PM, Anonymous Julie said...

I first had this combination at Damon in Sunset Beach. They made this delicious noodle (spaghetti)with soy sauce and butter sprinkled with..parmesan cheese. So good! I think adding lots of finely minced garlic would make the dish devine, sort of like Crustacean's famous garlic noodle.

At 11:07 PM, Blogger briannie said...

Mmm I used to eat fried spaghetti noodles w/ butter, soy sauce, and eggs. Weird combo, but it was good! This might be a little better than my childhood dish, though.

At 12:48 AM, Anonymous Bram said...

Is umami similar to gurih in Indonesian? That taste of salt, fat, sugar and MSG?

At 8:53 AM, Blogger elmomonster said...


Worlds better than cream cheese in sushi, but only slightly better than green tea and ice cream.


Garlic would make it a divine trifecta. Come to think of it, there might have been garlic in this dish I had too.


On the contrary, nothing is better than homemade or something you had in childhood! Probably not even this.


Absolutely! I don't know why I never made the connection before. Gurih is synonymous with umami! And it was in Bahasa Indonesia all along. Thanks for your comment!

At 8:21 PM, Anonymous Kelly von Hemert said...

Hi Edwin,
Can't wait to check out Japonaise's reincarnation! I haven't been there since last fall when I swore Cream Pan off temporarily after visiting when strawberry croissants were sold out, AGAIN!
I can only remain disgruntled for so long where food is concerned...

At 12:19 PM, Blogger elmomonster said...


Ah! I call ahead these days. I, too, have been disappointed with a short supply of strawberry croissants.

P.S. Are you the galleygirl of pear tart fame? Just wondering.

At 2:00 PM, Blogger me said...

hey elmo- been following your blog for awhile now and i must comment on this one as i love japonaise bakery! though it has an additional ingredient, try melted butter/soy sauce/lemon juice as a marinade for a grilled white fish (like tilapia). sooooo good!

At 8:55 AM, Blogger Eddie Lin said...


Mmmm-mmmm! It sounds easy enough to make at home. Hey! I got butter & soy sauce & noodles & chicken & mushrooms! Guess what Eddie's having for lunchy lunch?

At 11:03 AM, Blogger Unknown said...

Hmmm, I guess my Irish/English mom was well ahead of her time. I remember her melting the butter and adding the soy sauce and pepper flakes and marinating whole chicken wings, which were quickly par-boiled. Then dad would grille them on our small hibatchi. This was 30 years ago!


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