A changing of the guard has taken place inside the Decatur storefront that formerly housed I-Naba. That under-the-radar noodle house is now Chabuya, and the new spot hasn’t missed a beat.
Chabuya showcases a swath of Japanese cuisine, emphasizing seafood. A prime example is the battera ($8.50); more commonly known as pressed sushi, its presentation is rarely found locally. The kombu paper-topped mackerel—compressed atop sushi rice—is intensely fishy, making it a must order for the adventurous. Less aggressive is the itawasa ($4), simple slices of pink and white kamaboko fish cakes. Chabuya’s version is particularly mild, enhanced by the accompanying wasabi paste.
Not everything is challenging at Chabuya. The agedashi tofu ($5.50) might be the most accessible starter, with the lightly-fried, almost palate-cleansing tofu swimming in a more complex dashi broth. Equally approachable is the nasu dengaku ($5)—sweet, miso-glazed eggplant adorned with nori slivers and bonito flakes. The glistening miso sweetens, while the nori and bonito offer textural contrasts to the eggplant.
The bulk of the menu consists of rice and noodle dishes. The donburi (rice bowls) follow a simple equation: your choice of protein—like the savory fried pork cutlet katsu or the meaty yakinaku bulgogi (both $12)—atop a rice bowl, accompanied by a salad, miso soup and mild pickles. My favorite is the unagi-don ($14), smoky barbecued freshwater eel with just a hint of sweet nitsume.
Noodle-wise, you get a choice of hot or cold soba or udon. I prefer the nuttiness of the buckwheat-based soba to the more mild-flavored wheat udon. The cold noodle preparations are particularly fun with a mini-bowl of mentsuyu—broth with a base of sake, mirin, soy sauce, kombu and dried bonito—for dipping. Get the ten zaru ($12), which combines delicately fried shrimp and vegetable tempura, to test your chopstick skills.
Chabuya’s portion sizes are ample enough for a hearty meal, and the service is welcoming. What are you waiting for?
Chabuya Japanese Cuisine 3210 S. Decatur Blvd. #104; 725-696-8413. Daily, 11:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m.; Monday-Thursday, 5:30-10 p.m.; Friday & Saturday, 5:30 p.m.-midnight.