Yogis Teriyaki House: Gospel of the Bowl

I might be the last food writer left in Southern California, if not the country, who still takes the humble teriyaki bowl seriously, who pays attention to details such as the viscosity of a teriyaki sauce and how well the rice clumps at particular shops, who'll debate his friends about the merits of MOS 2 in Anaheim vs. MOS 2 in SanTana the way Lincoln went at it with Douglas. For all other critics, the teriyaki bowl is just gut filler, slop for the lowest classes; for me, it's a meal of immigrant aspirations, from the Japanese immigrants in Hawaii who modified their homeland's grilling techniques for American palates to the Mexicans in Southern California who claimed the dish as their own during the 1980s and 1990s to the Koreans who now run the majority of teriyaki-bowl palaces in Orange County.

All of this comes to a delicious head at Yogis (yep, no apostrophe) Teriyaki House in Tustin. It has no relation to the chain of the same name, nor should it: This is a superior product, down to the well-kept booths and a flat-screen television that always airs The Price Is Right. Service is blindingly fast and to order because the menu is simple: bowls, plates and a couple of appetizers, with chicken, shrimp, beef and veggies being the only options. The rice breaks off into concave chunks that slip nicely onto forks; the chicken and beef get sliced and charred into perfect nubs. A small order is a large; a large can feed a cubicle team. Of special note is the house-made teriyaki sauce, a bit stronger on the ginger, stickier and sweeter. The only qualms I have with Yogis House is the choice of Tabasco over Tapatío and the lack of horchata to wash everything down, but it doesn't matter; the majority of eaters here are Mexicans and other working-class folks, all drawn to a meal that's simplistically beautiful.

And to those of you who'll get freaked out by the aggressive proselytizing by Yogis' Christian owners: Get over it. Sure, eating underneath a wooden sign that proclaims, “Jesus is the Lord of this House” and seeing a shout-out to Acts 16:31 on the takeout menu is disconcerting, but you don't care while scarfing down a double-double, do you? Besides, the miracle of the fish and loaves? First mention by the Apostles of the holy bounty that is a teriyaki bowl.

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