Restaurant Review: Shonos Japanese Grill Offers Good Food, Good Value

1843 Montgomery Highway (Riverchase Plaza)

By Deborah and Evan Lockridge

shonos.jpgEddie Cui and his wife Flora opened Shonos Japanese Grill with the idea that healthy food can be delicious and doesn’t have to put a big dent your wallet.

Shonos is in the Riverchase Plaza strip mall south of the Galleria, also home to Hobby Lobby, Big Lots, and a number of other local restaurants, including Dale's, On Tap Sports Café, La Dolce Vita and Harry's Place.

The fairly narrow space features a grill/kitchen area along one side, and a single row of tables along the other, plus a dining counter perfect for solo diners running along the back side of the grill. The décor is simple, with dark wood chairs and tables, wall sconces with a hint of Asian feel to them, and a large Japanese scroll at the back. Menus are laminated and kept on the tables along with bottles of soy sauce and salt and pepper shakers.

We walked in and were promptly asked to sit wherever we liked. We chose a table and perused the menu – fairly simple, with a few appetizers, entrees, combo entrees, teriyaki bowls and sides. There is a limited selection of beer and wine along with soft drinks and hot tea. Mango or green tea ice cream is available for dessert.

It was a bit warm, so we skipped the miso soup and started out with an egg roll and an order of gyoza, served on attractive melamine Japanese-themed rectangular plates. The gyoza (the Japanese equivalent of pot stickers) were good -- won ton wrappers wrapped around seasoned meat filling, pleated on the top to make a half-moon shape. They were not greasy, as pot stickers sometimes can be, slightly crispy on the bottom and tender on the top. They were served with a salty, soy-sauce-based dipping sauce.

The egg roll, unfortunately, was not as good. It was average at best, with not enough filling and slightly overdone. To make it worse, the hot sauce and duck sauce served with it came in "panda packs," little plastic packets of condiments. The only good thing we can say about them is they have a cute panda logo. The mustard was a gelatinous texture and glowing yellow color that bore little resemblance to real hot mustard – and there was so little heat that our 5-year-old would probably eat it. Next time, we might bring some from home.

The entrees we ordered came with a salad with ginger dressing, and these were good – cold and crisp iceberg lettuce with a few carrot shreds, with just the right amount of tangy dressing. (Too often we've had these where the salad was drowned in dressing.)

For entrees, we chose the Eddie's Special ($7.50), a combination of marinated spicy beef and chicken; and a shrimp-and-chicken combination ($9.99). Each was cooked with teriyaki sauce and came with a choice of steamed or fried rice, and sautéed vegetables, a combination of zucchini, cabbage, onion and mushrooms. The vegetables were nicely seasoned and very tasty. A mayo-based "shrimp sauce" was served on the side in a squeeze bottle, and was quite good with the shrimp-and-chicken combo.

The Eddie's Special was good, not too spicy but with lots of flavor, and very tender pieces of meat and chicken. The shrimp in the combo was a generous portion, very fresh-tasting and cooked just right, not tough or fishy tasting at all. The bite-size pieces of white meat chicken were tender, as well. Like the gyoza, the entrees were not the least bit greasy.

Other entrees available include veggie, chicken, shrimp, fish (cod), scallops, or ribeye steak, or you can choose any two meats for a combo. There's also a chicken teriyaki bowl or shrimp teriyaki bowl served with rice (no salad) for just $4.95 for chicken or $5.95 for shrimp.

Our server was very attentive, refilling our soft drinks twice.

The menu is not extensive, but that's probably a good thing. Too often when you have a small restaurant and try to offer too many different things, there's not enough traffic to keep all the ingredients as fresh as they should be. Eddie's also offers take-out.

Unlike most other Japanese grills, you don't get the showy theatrics of sitting around the grill, with the chef juggling the salt and pepper shakers and tossing bits of food into customers' mouths. But the food is good and the price is right. We'd give it three forks if it weren't for the disappointing egg rolls and the horrible hot mustard. It might not be worth traveling across town for, but if you live in the Hoover or Pelham area, Shonos is a welcome dining addition.

Published December 2007