As a self-proclaimed foodie, I look for some key things in a restaurant, including authenticity and vibrant flavor. One restaurant that meets my requirements is Ojiya, an authentic Japanese restaurant in Chino Hills, only 20 minutes away from Claremont. Despite the long waiting time, every second is worth it as soon as the food reaches the table.
Originally based in Japan, Ojiya prides itself on serving fresh and genuine Japanese cuisine. According to its website, most Japanese restaurants in the United States use a soup stock base filled with MSG and salt for their dishes. At Ojiya, however, dishes are prepared in a traditional way by slowly extracting the natural flavors from bonito and mackerel shavings from scratch. Its homemade, all-natural ingredients really shine in its dishes, which are filled with fresh, colorful flavors that leave you craving more in a way that the Americanized restaurants do not.
The decor of the restaurant adds to the traditional setting and cozy ambience. With its dim lighting and wooden partitions, Ojiya provides its patrons with a relaxing and interesting atmosphere. The waiting area at the front of the restaurant is fairly small and usually quite crowded, and it is not unusual for many customers to be waiting outside. There are three seating options: the sushi bar, regular tables, or booths.
At the sushi bar, the menu is more restricted and there is a strong fishy smell, so I opt for regular table seating, even if the wait is longer. The service at Ojiya has always been wonderful; the food and drinks arrive quickly so customers aren’t left hungry for too long. Pricewise, dishes can vary between $8 to $17, but most are around $14. The lunch menu is slightly cheaper, averaging at about $10.
All of the dishes I have ordered at Ojiya have been delicious. Some of my favorites include the torinan udon, the chicken katsu—which sadly is not on the menu anymore—the beef teriyaki, and the miso soup. I personally do not care for seafood, but my friends who have ordered the sushi and sashimi dishes all give positive reviews.
The torinan udon is a hot soup with udon (or wheat) noodles in a flavorful broth with chicken and a pink fishcake. I tend to add a bit of soy sauce because I enjoy the extra salt, and this soup is fantastic and perfect for a chilly day. The portion is a good size, so the dish will leave you feeling full and satisfied. The soup’s savory warmth goes well with tempura.
Beef teriyaki is a staple at many Japanese restaurants and tends to taste similar almost everywhere. At Ojiya, though, I could taste a difference. The meat, which is ribeye steak, is hearty and cooked to perfection. Plus, it is not drenched in an overwhelmingly sweet teriyaki sauce. Rather, the teriyaki is lighter, allowing the natural flavors of the beef to shine through. You can order this dish in a rice bowl, with a salad, or in a bento combination box.
The miso soup, though only a side dish, is probably one of the best items on the menu. Miso soup is good and comforting in most restaurants; it’s hard to go wrong with it. At Ojiya, the miso soup stood out in a way it hadn’t at other establishments. The flavors were stronger and more vibrant, and I could taste the freshness.
“I usually don’t have miso soup, so I was really excited to order that. It’s a simple soup but it was pretty dang good. I had some type of tuna rolls that were pretty good, definitely better than the cheap ones they have around in Upland, probably because they took more time in preparation and freshness,” said Julia Martinez SC ’19, who I brought to the restaurant during winter break.
Unfortunately, one of my favorite dishes—the chicken katsu—has been discontinued. Warm and fried to perfection, the dish’s simplicity was matched by its deliciousness. In its place, Ojiya now offers pork katsu. While I have yet to try this version, I have heard good things about it.
Ojiya is a great option for 5C students who want to explore new cuisine and temporarily escape from the Claremont bubble. With its cozy atmosphere and delicious food, it provides the perfect setting for group outings and dates. As a local from Chino Hills, I can assure you that Ojiya is a dining gem.