Abura-ya in Oakland

by foodhoe on March 16, 2015

380 – 15th Street, Oakland, CA | 510.835.9515 | Facebook | twitter


Last month, I joined the East Bay Dishing meetup group to check out Abura-Ya, a popup restaurant within a restaurant at the Garden House cafe in downtown Oakland.  The cafe is open during the day and the pop-up is only open for dinner Wednesday thru Saturday nights.   Abura-Ya translates to grease shop and they specialize in (surprise!) Japanese Fried Chicken (JFC) also known as “karaage,” pronounced (kara-ah-geh), a popular and ubiquitous deep fried delicacy that can be found on Japanese bar menus throughout the land.  They also serve izakaya plates, which are meant to be shared like Tapas. You can see their online menu here, which changes according to what is available.  I grabbed this graphic from their Facebook page, which has the location and hours, along with their excellent logo, which is distinctly Ramones-ian.

And in the spirit of sharing, I have copied this great JFC shot by Bert Johnson from Luke Tsai’s review on East Bay Express, where I learned that the restaurant is a collaboration between chef Adachi Hiroyuki, Angelo Hernandez (Hiroyuki’s right-hand man in the kitchen), and Rodrigo de la Raza.  Besides dinner at Garden House, they are now serving lunch at The Hatch which according to the address looks to be on the next block.  The specialty of the house, JFC, are made from skinless thighs that have been cut into large chunks, which are marinated overnight in shio koji (a fermented rice product with magical tenderizing and flavor enhancing properties) and pepper, then dusted in cornstarch and fried twice.  The first frying cooks the chicken through, and the second frying, at a higher temperature, transforms it to crispy golden perfection.

Photo by Bert Johnson from the East Bay Express

The menu is simple yet complicated and offers eight different flavors of Karaage to choose from:

  • Wet Seasonings: Agave Ginger Teriyaki, Orange Honey Aioli, Japanese BBQ
  • Dry Seasonings: Umami Salt* (Konbu, shitake & garlic salt), Shichimi (Japanese chili pepper mix), Sansho (Japanese tingle pepper), Garlic Miso (Dried miso & garlic.) and Japanese Curry*

*Note that the Umami Salt and Japanese Curry are a collaboration from local shops Umami-mart and Oaktown Spice Shop.

You can pick one flavor for 4 pieces fried chicken ($7), or two flavors for 8 pieces ($12), and each order comes with a pile of sliced fresh cabbage & miso ranch dressing.


Here is the chef, busy greeting people and frying chicken.  Apparently he plays bass guitar in punk bands in his spare time, and also has a day job at the SF Ferry building farmer’s market hawking produce for Capay Organic, a true renaissance man.


Check out the impressive array of hot sauces!


Our group of 8 sat towards the back so we could converse, the speakers were near the front and the music was enthusiastically loud.  We decided to order one of each flavor, so we could try them all, along with some other dishes. It was quite a feast!


The star of the meal was the fried chicken.  It’s tender, juicy, intensely flavorful with a super crispy yet light crust infused with a variety of treatments.  I liked the dry finished flavors of garlic-miso and the curry best, but they were all finger licking good.



The Okonomiyaki pancake ($5) is made from a batter mixed with cabbage and other chopped vegetables, decorated with flavorful rings of bbq sauce, and aioli and topped with shaved bonito flakes that wriggled disconcertingly for some.


We stuck with fried and shared the whole fried onion ($3) drizzled with garlic butter, teriyaki sauce and topped with green onion, it was a luscious and rich preparation.


And then the Fried Cauliflower ($7), a gorgeous medley of cauliflower and romanesco florets from the vegetarian section of fried stuff, so we chose to have it flavored with the Umami salt, it was served with the slices of fresh cabbage and miso-ranch dipping sauce.


The Thigh Oyster Kushiyaki ($7 for 2 skewers/$4 for 1) were a big hit, one person thought these were better than the fried chicken because you could really taste the chicken.  Chicken thigh oysters are the two small, oyster-shaped pieces of dark meat that lie on either side of a whole chicken’s backbone.  The skewers of  juicy chicken had a lovely char and were served with lemon wedges and spicy shichimi (a spice mixture containing seven ingredients) that you can sprinkle on to taste.


Tako poke carpaccio ($9), thin slices of tender cooked octopus dusted with lemon, salt, sesame oil and shichimi spice mix, garnished with green onion and jalapeño slices.  See, now I have shown you the two non-fried dishes we tasted.


The Spicy radish and carrot ($4) tossed with habanero infused sesame oil and topped with crushed toasted sesame seeds was a big hit, the big bold tangy flavors offset all of the fried stuff.


The Yaki Onigiri ($2/pc) are rice balls (yes they are triangular, that’s the traditional shape) were griddled to a toasty crisp then brushed with soy sauce.  This is total comfort food with those spicy pickles…


There is always a paparazzi moment when the food arrives.



We demolished it all… it was a fabulous feast, I really recommend going with some friends so you can maximize the variety of dishes to explore.  The menu also has sliders, which are made from the yaki onigiri (griddled rice cakes) that are filled with karaage that I really must go back to try!


Abura-Ya on Urbanspoon

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Rosa March 17, 2015 at 9:40 am

Great food! I’d love to have such a place in Geneva.




grace March 18, 2015 at 11:09 am

pretty sure i’d be repeatedly pinching myself at an event like this to make sure i wasn’t dreaming!


Carolyn Jung March 19, 2015 at 9:42 am

Eight different flavors of Japanese fried chicken? OMG, my husband would be in heaven there. Karaage is one of his fave things in the world.


Row March 25, 2015 at 1:19 pm

Woo-hoo, ultimate fried food win!!! LOL at the two non-fried dishes… tasty, but completely outnumbered by all the fried goodness. 🙂


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