Shojo – Boston, Massachusetts

First Taste: Sake to Me

According to Japanese legend, the shojo was a half-man/half-monkey that traipsed across the earth in search of a sake river. This month, the search may have ended in Chinatown.

Brian Moy, owner of Shojo, an Asian bar and bistro, has been in the Chinatown restaurant scene for nearly two decades. He’s seen the neighborhood evolve, as the expansion of Malden and Quincy drew away its original demographic. That dispersion is exactly why Moy was determined to open his restaurant in the heart of the community. “It’s important to keep Chinatown intact,” says Moy, who’s also the president of the area’s business association. “To show the people of Boston that Chinatown has something different to offer.”

Moy aims to attract a new crowd by providing a relaxed atmosphere and a menu that’s based heavily on local foods, using traditional craft with a modern twist. “There are certain things that Boston is missing on the food and social scene,” he says. “We’re not going to be serving the food that everyone else is serving.” Exemplifying that is the suckling pig bao, which Shojo chef Nick Lee, who comes from the Franklin Café Group, prepares from a whole pig, roasted daily. The starter features suckling pig topped with kimchi, smoked BBQ sauce, shaved cucumber and jalapeño, wrapped in a soft, Asian-style bun. Other menu highlights include herbed duck-fat fries and braised short ribs served with taro mash, Chinese spinach and a star anise sauce. For a sweet finish, Lee offers his take on a dessert tofu, an almond-milk jelly with sake-macerated grapes.

Keeping that sake river flowing, Moy also plans to stock the bar with imported bottles. “We want people to come in to have a good time and enjoy themselves,” says Moy. To that end, Shojo’s communal tables are removed after dinner to make space for late-night DJs and dancing. “The louder, the better,” says Moy. “Even at casual dining places, people are so proper. We want to be improper.” Sounds like our kind of place.

Shojo 9A Tyler St., Boston (617-423-7888)

This article originally appeared in the August 22, 2012, issue of The Improper Bostonian.