Steve's Gastronomic Home Page

Riyoma Japanese Restaurant

2000 N. Lee Trevino
El Paso, TX
(915) 590-8220

Riyoma is probably a better Japanese restaurant than would be expected in El Paso, considering the great popularity of Chinese buffets, California rolls, and Americanized Asian food of all kinds. Throughout the years, though, quite a few Japanese business people have had extended stays in El Paso as a result of the maquiladora industry, more than likely serving as the basis for the relatively large number of Japanese restaurants in the city.

For years Riyoma and Sakura, both on Lee Trevino Drive, have been competing with each other as more upscale and traditional Japanese restaurants. Riyoma lost its long time sushi chef (and former owner), so I am not sure how the sushi compares now to its previous quality. I think the cooked items and box lunches are about the same quality as they were previously, and so far I have found better things here than at Sakura. I have not tried enough things to say which restaurant is better overall, though, and each has its strengths and weaknesses.

One of the main problems with Riyoma is that it is over-priced. For instance, you have to pay extra for the green tea while most of the best restaurants give it to you on the house. The lunch specials are less expensive, but have small portions.

Agedashi tofu
Agedashi tofu is an excellent appetizer

While appetizers contribute even more to a tab that is usually already too painful, these are some of the best tasting and most traditional Japanese dishes that are served. Agedashi Tofu is a delicious serving of four silken tofu cubes served in dashi sauce (made with kelp), and covered with grated daikon radishes. Even though this was the first time I had tasted this dish, the quality seemed equal to the food that would be served at any of the best Japanese restaurants in the country.

Lunch specials include a good variety of menu items, but in smaller portions than the dinner menu. This is a good thing for the many meat items that are served (beef, pork, chicken, fish, etc.), since I do not find large slabs of meat all that appealing. Most plates do not come with vegetables or side dishes, though, something that I think is included when you go up the street to Sakura.

Tempura udon
Tempura udon comes with shrimp and vegetable tempura, but I put mine on the side

The Tempura Udon is one of the better menu items, and is an example both of what I like and what I do not like about the lunch specials. It contains perfectly cooked pieces of shrimp and vegetables that can be served on the side, but for an extra price. To me it does not make sense to fry the tempura to a crispy golden brown, only to throw it into a broth that makes it soggy. The dipping sauce they provide for the tempura is excellent, and this is one of the best dishes served at Riyoma. To have a more balanced meal, though, I prefer to have the udon soup along with it rather than just a fried dish. The thick udon noodles in the soup are served in a clear broth that gives the impression that this is more of a health food than a standard restaurant dish. While I have had better udon soups in other places, the one here is so full of good stuff it is likely you will consume every spoonful contained in the bowl. I suppose it makes sense not to serve miso soup with a soup entree, but I wish they would at least give customers a salad.

Box lunch
The box lunch comes with tempura, teriyaki chicken, rice, California roll, salad, and miso soup

The box lunch provides more variety than the lunch plates, but as far as I know the box lunch only comes with one choice: teriyaki chicken, California roll, salad, tempura, and miso soup.

Sushi lunch specials are available, but offer only sushi choices. There are no combination lunches with sushi and other items, except for the California roll that is available on the box lunch.

I was rather disillusioned when I asked the sushi chef for sushi recommendations, and he suggested ordering the lunch special. I know that in Seattle and probably any major city most sushi chefs are happy to inform customers which of the sushi choices are freshest and that they would recommend. I have not tried the sushi, though, so I do not want to speculate about its quality.

The California Roll served at Riyoma was very fresh and delicious, though, and I would say is better than the one I tried at Sakura. I have read in certain reviews that people like the sushi at Riyoma, but they may be referring to the sushi prepared by the former chef (who has now opened a sushi restaurant in east El Paso).

Fish that is served either for lunch or dinner is usually offered as a special. This is probably a good idea in the middle of the desert so the chef has the option of choosing fish that is reasonably fresh. A white fish I tried as a lunch special, Kisu Tempura, was quite fresh and flavorful.

I used to enjoy the Salmon Teriyaki, but now that I've tried the one at Matsuharu I don't think I will continue to order the one here.

Riyoma is definitely worth making a trip for special occasions, but the prices continue to be the drawback for everyday meals.



Cuisine: Japanese
Cost: $$$
Accessible: Yes
Tea: Green (brewed)
Smoking: No Smoking

Most Recent Visit
Apr. 19, 2007

Number of Visits: 7

Best Items
Tempura, Agedashi Tofu

Special Ratings
Tempura Udon:
Kisu Tempura:
Agedashi Tofu:
Miso Soup: