If you read this blog with any regularity, you'll know that I have an unshakable affinity for Yoshinoya. It's one of the few fast-food joints other than Jack-in-the-Box that I eat regularly and actually like. Perhaps it's because I grew up on this stuff (in fact, I think it's exactly because I did) that I railed against it when the chain started to serve its chicken in chopped up little pieces to copy its closest competitor, The Flame Broiler.
This happened three years ago. And since then, I've adjusted, adding my own hacks when I order the chicken bowl.
But now, it seems that Yoshinoya has decided to quietly change it all back to the way it used to be. The dark meat, crispy-skinned chicken is now sliced into spears and served separately from the vegetables instead of being hacked into indiscriminate chunks and thrown on top of the veggies. But at the same time it righted a wrong, Yoshinoya went and changed something else I loved on the menu: the Sesame Wings.
"Changed" is the wrong word. It has actually discontinued the Sesame Wings. The wings it sells now are called "Asian BBQ Wings" and are glopped all over with a sticky-sugary-spicy BBQ sauce. Also, these "Asian BBQ Wings" now consist of both flats and drums (the Sesame Wings were exclusively flats). But with the new sauce, gone is the sake-marinated subtleties, the un-sauced crispness of its fried skin.
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If the "Asian BBQ Wings" remind me of anything, it's the bone-in version of General Tso's Chicken or something that TGI Friday's might serve at Happy Hour. Actually, though I prefer the old "Sesame Wings" and hope it's brought back; these new wings aren't actually bad. If you like General Tso's Chicken, you might actually like it even more. As Jennifer 8. Lee's "Fortune Cookie Chronicles" said about the popularity of that faux-Chinese dish: "he is fried, he is sweet and he is chicken--all things that Americans love."
But for me, Yoshinoya is about nostalgia. As a kid, I thought it was the only place that made teriyaki chicken bowls. It took a while before I realized that the dish, when served elsewhere, didn't always come with a side of mushy vegetables suspended in a starchy goop.
Someone slap me if I start waxing poetic about the goop.