There are limits to my gastronomical omniscience, gentle readers: I always appreciate your tips in finding the county’s best holes-in-the-wall. My salute, then, to the guy at a book-signing who, upon discovering I also moonlight as this rag’s food editor, began raving about TOKYO TERIYAKI in Buena Park. It was 8:30 at night, the man lived in Brea, and we were in Mission Viejo, but he insisted to his buddies they needed to fill up on bowls immediately. “It’s probably closed right now, dude,” said one.
“Who cares?” snapped the other. “I need my teriyaki NOW.”
The guys hopefully got their grub on that night—this small stand stays open until 9 p.m. seven days a week. I didn’t visit until lunchtime a couple of weeks ago, and I knew the stranger’s tip was fruitful without having tasted a forkful. The lunch crowd featured a good teriyaki mix—men in ties or work boots, Japanese nationals, and Latino families looking for cheap, filling meals in these trying times. Busy. Behold, the best non-Mos 2 teriyaki bowl in Orange County.
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There’s nothing elegant about a great teriyaki bowl. Its appeal lies in smushing as much teriyaki-glazed grilled meats as possible on top of a mound of white rice. Each ingredient is usually an accessory to a meal rather than the featured entrée, but the beauty of the teriyaki bowl is the creation of something that spoons as easily as ice cream and fills your gut for a long time. Tokyo Teriyaki fulfills these minimum requirements but adds surprising nuance. The house-made teriyaki sauce flows smoother and sweeter than that of its competitors, ensuring the liquid slinks through the bowl, touching as many rice grains and meat bits as possible, instead of forever remaining a gunk. There is a Korean element to the meats—juicier, thinner-sliced, sesame-seed-spiked—owing probably to the location’s proximity to Buena Park’s Koreatown. The plate specials—salad, chewy gyoza and other accouterments—succeed, but you’re better off with the concentrated wallop of a bowl. Squeeze some Sriracha and more teriyaki sauce on top, and you’ll eat happy for the afternoon.
Cutest thing about this restaurant: a bulletin board covered with compliments near the register. Tokyo Teriyaki is so proud jes’ plain folks love them that they advertise the board on their takeout menu. Leave this review on the board, as proof that no journalist is an island unto himself—and to convince others to share their grub secrets with me, so I can share them with you. And to the person who has never read the Weekly before today: Where do you like to eat? E-mail me at email@example.com.
Tokyo Teriyaki, 7855 La Palma Ave., Ste. 4, Buena Park, (714) 739-0146.