Yoshinoya is one of my favorite national fast food chains. With that said, I haven't been in a while. So I was surprised when I went there to get a quick bite last night and saw it was now offering Orange Chicken. Yes, apparently the chain—fresh after trying to ape Flame Broiler by chopping its chicken into itty bitty pieces and adding green onion (and then going back to the way it used to be)—is now offering Panda Express' signature item. According to its Facebook page, it was introduced sometime in September.
And you know what? I liked it. Despite a sticky glaze that doesn't have much orange flavor or tanginess the way Panda Express' does, the chicken is consistently crunchy. I'm not sure if the latter is a result of Yoshinoya frying the battered chicken pieces to order or if I just happened to get lucky. But for sure, this chicken isn't set out out front in steam tables like it usually is at Chinese take-outs where it just sits and inevitably gets soggy.
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Despite being slightly overfried, I've not yet had a soggy piece of Orange Chicken at Yoshinoya.
In fact, this, in my opinion, is the best menu addition to the venerable Japanese fast food chain in ages. It's better than the tilapia. And it's certainly better than the steak, which could never measure up to the original ribbon shavings of its gyudon.
And it made me realize why I hadn't been to Yoshinoya in a while. The venerable 116-year-old Japanese chain is slow in introducing new items. But when it does, it does so because it must do what all modern-day fast food firms must to keep interest alive, even if it means offering Chinese food. But then, Panda Express has been offering teriyaki chicken unanswered for years.