Exploring SW Houston's Chinatown: Iwa Ya Teppanyaki & Sushi

Exploring SW Houston's Chinatown: Iwa Ya Teppanyaki & Sushi
Inside the entry of Iwa Ya. Image Credit: Anna Gisler

By reporter Rachel Iliev

We sat down at table A4 as the words “cherish the love” played in the background. 

That’s what we should have done first.

Instead, we had bypassed the table of menus in Iwa Ya’s entry and walked straight up to the ordering counter, clueless about the procedure. The cashier kindly directed us to sit at A4 and look at the menus. She handed us papers with lists of sushi to circle and invited us to come back when we were ready to order. 

I settled on an $8.95 Katsu Don, and Anna Gisler, The Sharpener’s photographer, chose a $10.95 Shaggy Dog sushi roll. When we went back up to order, we discovered that there was a 10% discount for paying with cash instead of credit card.

When we finally sat down to “Cherish,” we surveyed the nature- and water-themed decor. In front of us was a wooden divider carved with a sea turtle and dolphin. On the far left, a mural of koi fish and a radiant sun filled the wall.

The song changed to Patsy Cline’s “Crazy,” along with other oldies. While waiting for our food, we were told there was a free soup bar and decided to try it.

First up was Miso soup with its characteristically strong fish taste. There were also fresh green onions set out to top it with. The corn soup behind it was slightly sweet and peppery, with a milky consistency (although it had no dairy taste). We found out later that there is also free barley tea in the same vicinity. 

Our food arrived within fifteen minutes of ordering. My Katsu Don was a fried pork cutlet on a bed of rice, topped with a savory egg mixture that tasted like it contained soy sauce and green onions. It was garnished with grilled onions, seaweed strips, and a delicate slice of what tasted like squash. The pork was crisp and a bit bland on its own, but paired nicely with the flavorful egg.

Anna’s Shaggy Dog sushi roll had fried shrimp, cucumber, rice, spicy mayo, and imitation crab. She said that it was sweet overall, but had a nice blend of spicy, sweet, and sour tastes. It was well balanced and had a nice texture. 

A bowl of food on a table

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Katsu Don (left), Shaggy Dog (right). Image credit: Anna Gisler

Iwa Ya is at 9600 Bellaire Blvd #101A in Chinatown. We arrived around 11:30 AM on a Friday, fifteen minutes after the restaurant opened. By noon, it was starting to fill up. It wasn’t packed, but visitors may want to arrive early if they want more seating options. The tables appear to be spaced out widely enough for wheelchairs or walkers if that is a concern.

If it’s your first time visiting, here are some helpful steps:

  1. Look for Iwa Ya below the Dynasty Medical Center sign. Iwa Ya's sign is underneath the building's brick overhang, so it can be difficult to find at first.
Cars parked cars in front of a building

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Image Credit: Anna Gisler
  1. Right when you enter, there’s a table full of menus. (The white papers on the left are for ordering sushi rolls.) You can take one and seat yourself to look at it. Look for a number on your table—the cashier will ask for it when you go up to order.
A small statue of a buddha on a desk

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The table with menus. Image Credit: Anna Gisler
  1. The ordering station is all the way at the back. To the left is the soup bar (not pictured here). The water, cups, tea, and knives were all located in that same area, next to the ordering counter. 
A restaurant with signs and banners

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The ordering counter. Image Credit: Anna Gisler

There was also a cute little monkey.

A stuffed monkey holding a banana

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Image Credit: Anna Gisler

Check the latest hours before visiting. Currently, Iwa Ya's website says it's closed most afternoons between 3:00 and 5:00 PM, and closed all day on Tuesdays.

Author: Rachel Iliev

Rachel Iliev, reporter
Rachel Iliev is a senior studying Biology and Creative Writing at Baylor University. As a high school senior, she wrote the play Keep Your Head Above the Water, produced by Dirt Dogs Theater Co. She is currently finishing a creative writing thesis.

Photographer: Anna Gisler

Anna Gisler, photographer
Anna Gisler is a High school student attending Logos Preparatory Academy. She has a passion for running and photography. She looks forward to learning photojournalism with The Sharpener.