Shoka is a freshly opened Japanese spot in the particularly well-placed Loft 98 factory space. Named after a style of Ikebana, the restaurant focuses on quality that emphasizes artful, splashy presentation. The combination made for a delightful spread!
On one rainy night last week, we arrived at Shoka chilled to the bone. Before we knew it, the waitress had traded our umbrellas for heavy cups of tea and tucked us in a recessed table with soft cushions. We were already feeling ourselves unwind, but the place bloomed when the food and drink arrived.
Perhaps it’s the contrast with the surrounding minimal decor, but Shoka’s food really pops visually. The Julie roll was nearly technicolor, while the Shoku salad with prawn dressing had a spectrum of fresh, sweet and crunchy contrasts. Chef Chen (formally of Haiku and Shikumen) has introduced signature rolls with California appeal in color and name, but not overstuffed or sloppily garnished. Order any roll in 4 or 8 pieces, and receive uniformly sized date-friendly bites. The sashimi plate (or should we call it a small tropical island?) was a celebration of fresh seafood with plump jewels of tuna, uni, and octopus. The spread was presented on a mountain of shaved ice and garnish, with no skimping on extras like wasabi and pickles. The warmth of our miso, and the grilled cod’s sweet glaze added richness to our spread. The asparagus was arranged in a little raft in butter-rich sauce.
The word in Loft 98 is the chefs in Shoka may be putting their heads together with the French kitchen next door for some fresh results in the near future, yielding more surprises with each visit. With only an 8 minute walk north of Jinan subway station and convenient healthy food, Shoka is bound to draw a faithful lunch crowd. The sake cocktails and tropical island sashimi plates won’t do for putting you in the mood for making spreadsheets though, come back with your friends for dinner before a night out.