Let me start off by saying that I think Abura-ya is the most exciting dining experience in the Bay Area in the last few years. By "exciting" I mean: doing something spectacularly new and genre-bending -- all deliciously, and not one bit bank-breaking. Abura-ya specializes in Japanese fried chicken, but it is so much more than this. It is simply good food, prepared with joy, without any pretense. I call Abura-ya the "Izakaya for the People."
This post is very overdue, as Abura-ya opened last summer, but the place keeps me on my toes every time I walk in -- punk rock blaring, deep fryer sizzling, the smell of fried foods intoxicating; Abura-ya demands the attention of all your senses, not just your taste buds.
Adachi in front of his Ramones-inspired logo wall
Abura-ya is a pop-up, and wouldn't have it any other way. When I asked the owner and chef Mr. Hiroyuki Adachi if he is looking for any brick and mortar opportunities, he shook his head, as if to say, "Why would I do that?!?" Located in downtown Oakland (overheard: "15th street is so HOT right now."), the space is Garden House by day and Abura-ya by night -- ehem, Wednesday through Saturdays only.
Whenever I talk to Adachi, I feel his true love for his customers and community. He just wants to bring awesome food to the masses, as organically and sustainably as possible, without putting a dent in your wallet. He is disappointed by overpriced izakayas sweeping the Bay Area ("They are not izakayas!") and brings his own definition of this genre to Oakland. Abura means "oil" in Japanese, and even though the fried chicken is the star here, don't underestimate the handful of fresh, well-prepared vegetable dishes, and many are vegan or gluten free. The kale salad is one of my favorites, and Cabs love the wasabi slaw.
The menu is constantly on rotation here with new small plates, according to what Adachi can get his hands on at farmers markets.
The mainstay is the fried chicken -- get four pieces or eight, over rice or without, and choose your dry or wet "rub". The Umami Salt and Japanese Curry are brought to you by our collaboration with Oaktown Spice Shop!
The staff of Abura-ya are the friendliest:
Hot sauce for the people:
Abura-ya, like any izakaya in Japan, is best enjoyed with the company of friends -- that way you can order everything on the menu and share it all!
Clockwise starting far left: Umami Salt and sansho fried chicken, wasabi slaw, kale and tofu salad, tako (octopus) carpaccio, yaki onigiri (grilled rice balls), duck chicharones.
How is Japanese fried chicken different from the Southern style of the U.S.? Well it's usually going to be thigh pieces, and the main difference is the use of potato or corn starch for coating instead of flour. The chicken is also often marinated before hand with a soy sauce blend -- at Abura-ya, Adachi marinates his chicken in shio-koji. Hell yes!
You'll always get a side of cabbage with the chicken, along with the special "ranch" dipping sauce.
All our dishes were phenomenal, and we were all blown away by the night's special: tonkatsu!
The pork was so moist and tender, we suspected this was twice fried. Although the pork could have been marinated in shio-koji as well! The dollop of carmalized onion on top was AMAZEBALLS. The perfect accompaniment of sweet to this meaty dish. And they didn't skimp on the HOT mustard either!
Of course, this is an izakaya for the people, so you may enjoy a can of Sapporo or a jar of the house sake sangria:
We did a lot of damage this round. This feast was only $60! That's $20 a head! You can't even order a pizza these days for $20.
Can't wait to go back! 15th Street is so HOT right now!
PSA: Abura-ya will be serving up his fried chicken and MORE at our JAPAN BEER FEST this Saturday. Come on out!
380 15th Street
Oakland, CA 94612
Wednesday-Sunday at 6pm
For those of you in San Francisco, no fear! Abura-ya travels across the bridge every first and third Monday to pop up inside Mini Bar on Divisadero.