After a (very popular) interlude to wax on about Super King, we’re returning to our series on SG Valley restaurants that give a lot of bang for your weakened buck. This time we’re going Japanese, by way of the White House Cleaners mini-mall in Pasadena:
Oba Sushi Izakaya
This corner spot in the unglamorous strip mall at the mouth of the 110 Freeway has been home to a few failed restaurants, but this time we seem to have a keeper. The folks behind Oba made the most of the stucco-box space, decorating with clean lines and lots of natural light, but it’s not the decor that’s drawing people: It’s the extensive menu of izakaya (small-plate cooked dishes); the sushi and sashimi; the good sake selection; and the modest prices — izakaya are $3.50 to $7.50; most rolls are $9 to $13. Oba is a fun place to come with a group of four or more, so you can share pitchers of sake (or tall Sapporos) and a bevy of izakaya and rolls, and have a party for about $25 a head. The sushi isn’t amazing, but it’s fresh and flavorful, and the sashimi specials are worth the investment. As for the izakaya, the only one that has really let us down was the baked miso cod, thin and dry instead of thick and buttery moist. Instead, try the grilled yellowtail cheek; the chewy, delicious bits of short ribs; the salmon-skin salad; light shrimp tempura; succulent eggplant miso; and salmon garlic croquettes. It’s a good value at any hour, but if you come between 5:30 and 7, many of the dishes and drinks are discounted.
Oba Sushi Izakaya, 181 E. Glenarm St., Pasadena, 626.799.8543, obasushi.com. L Mon.-Sat., D nightly; happy hour Mon.-Fri. 5:30-7 p.m. Japanese/sushi. Beer & wine. AE, MC, V. $$