Shojo Has Funky Fare With Modern Asian Cuisine
Meet Shojo. He’s a Japanese mythical creature – half man/half monkey on a quest for a never ending sake river. Aren’t we all? Sigh. Now meet Shojo, the fierce late-night gastropub in Chinatown. This place has serious mojo, from local artist Alec Strickland’s kooky comic book mural (is that Godzilla with laser beam eyes?) to executive chef Mark O’Leary’s (of O Ya fame) offbeat take on Asian fare to pumping eclectic tunes (Pink Floyd one minute, rap the next).
Clearly the city’s influencing foodies have noticed, with the restaurant earning The Improper Bostonian‘s Best Neighborhood Restaurant and Boston magazine’s Best of Boston Ramen. We settled in one evening, ready to try these tapas-sized small plates getting big kudos. Food comes out rapid fire, so based on your “hang out” goals, you could be in and out in 30 minutes. We lingered a bit longer over a housemade ginger beer.
When in Chinatown, do as the locals do. This translated to looking around to see what fellow diners had ordered. Every single table held a plate (sometimes two) of the Wu-Tang Tiger Style Ribs. Served in a carefully haphazard pile, it became pretty clear why these sweet fall-off-the-bone ribs are Shojo’s most requested dish (as confirmed by our server). The crunchy peanuts, Thai basil, and crispy shallots were the perfect toppings for these short ribs doused in sweet chili sauce.
Anything you can order that’s served on a puffy house steamed bun, please do. The Pig Bao was fantastic with its smoked BBQ sauce, kimchee and jalapeño, and the Shiitake Mushroom Bao was a treat with a meaty and rich soy-braised mushroom steak with crispy daikon and rosemary (not overpowering as this pushy spice tends to do). Then there’s the Shojonator. Chef O’Leary’s answer to the trendy beef slider, this juicy and thick patty was topped with smoked bacon, pickles, and was slathered in kimcheese, a tasty and spiced mixture of kimchee and cheese sauce.
Adding an offbeat Southern touch, enter the Chicken and Waffles v3.0. These boneless pieces of chicken are atop a huge Hong Kong waffle (the cutest thing you’ve ever seen, with a malty flavor and little tiny pull-apart bubbles of waffle). Add some five-spice butter and extra sweet Sizurrp and you have one of our favorites on the menu.
As a shout out to seafood lovers, we tried the salt and pepper Calamari, a pleasant dish with scallions and sliced jalapeños mixed in and served with jalapeño lime aioli on the side. It was nothing special, but it boasted a nice crunch and plenty of tentacles. The Salmon and Shrimp Ceviche was up next, a refreshing dish with a light fire that was balanced by a gazpacho-like base of diced tomato, onion and green peppers. A true summertime dish, it was full of sliced salmon and shrimp, crunchy plantain chips, and togarashi. Word to the wise: give this dish a stir, lest you get a piece from the top with a heavy-handed dust of chili powder.
Similar to the menu items, the mural on the wall changes periodically. Last year’s was perhaps a glimpse into the Shojo team’s future. It showed an animated version of Boston sights and landmarks that they’re “taking over.” World domination came closer to fruition when they recently relaunched The Best Little Restaurant in Chinatown and also have plans for a new concept called Ruckus Noodles.
Looks like Boston’s got a half man/half monkey on its back. And that’s a good thing.
Shojo is located at 9 Tyler Street in Boston.