Santa Maria Sun / Eats
Chow-Ya, Lompoc's Asian fusion gem, gets two thumbs up
From the outside, Chow-Ya kind of resembles a struggling furniture store. But for the love of God, don’t let that stop you from going in.
It’s an Asian fusion restaurant, thrown into the mix in Lompoc about a year and a half ago, and so far dominating its little corner of the city’s culinary market. When I dined there recently, I showed up just a few minutes after 11 a.m.—Chow-Ya’s opening time—and had the whole place to myself. But even at its emptiest state, the venue fended off any dingy-warehouse or closed-down-furniture-shop vibes with bold, colorful decor and plenty of live plants.
One of the back corners was converted into a mini Asian market, selling teas, dried seaweed, and an assortment of Japanese candy. From where I was sitting, the house music (melodic vocal jazz) clashed awkwardly with the kitchen music (see: “Closer” by the Chainsmokers), but it was more endearing than annoying. Overall, the place felt lively, welcoming, and modern. I could tell immediately that it was more than just your typical Chinese place.
The notion really sank in when a waitress brought me my menu, which showed off the phrase “Stay healthy with us” emblazoned on the front cover. Yes, you read that right: “Stay healthy with us.” Chow-Ya is jumping into the clean-ish eating flow of things, so if you’re craving fried orange chicken and a side vat of grease, this isn’t the place for you. In my case, I was glad for that.
I’d previously scoured Chow-Ya’s Yelp reviews, trying to decide what I should order there, and I was taken aback by how enthusiastic its recent customers seemed: One patron wrote, “Honestly, I’d drive back up here three hours to eat here again,” and most others followed suit in their reviews. One woman posted a photo of her dinner—grilled chicken udon soup with a side of pork egg rolls—and for me, it was love at first sight. I replicated her order when I went.
In case you’re unfamiliar with udon, it’s a thick, flour noodle, common in Japanese cuisine (much of Chow-Ya’s menu is Japanese-influenced). I love udon’s doughy texture and its tendency to absorb soup broths, which played to its favor in this particular dining experience, since Udon’s broth was smoky and rich and delicious. The chicken was tender and flavorful, complemented by sautéed mushrooms and various herbs. The Yelp reviewer who convinced me to make this order called it “the best soup [she’s] ever had in [her] life,” and I must agree that it’s certainly among the top-ranking for me.
The pork egg rolls were a delight, as well—a little bit of a slight to Chow-Ya’s “Stay healthy with us” motto, but scrumptious nonetheless. A pork egg roll from Chow-Ya is the kind of food you keep eating even when it’s scalding your mouth. It’s just that good.
As I single-handedly took up an entire four-person table, other customers began filing in, and the space was half-full by around 11:45 a.m. The wait staff was friendly and attentive with each party, and the best part: They return your check with those little coffee candies. I freakin’ love those things.
All in all, Chow-Ya has my wholehearted recommendation. When you’re in Lompoc and have a hankering for Asian fusion (I’m sure it happens all the time), check it out for yourself.
Brenna Swanston wants more coffee candies. Tell her where to find them at email@example.com.
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