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The Emperors Of Sauce: A Renton Teriyaki Round-Up

Foodie Catherine Reynolds takes a one-day whirlwind teriyaki tour of Renton.

January 2010 the New York Times heralded Teriyaki as Seattle's gift to the food world. Author John T. Edge wrote, "In Seattle, teriyaki is omnipresent, the closest this city comes to a Chicago hotdog."

How has Teriyaki become part of the fabric of the Northwest? And who eats it?

Teriyaki is a workhorse. For the now-legendary Japanese immigrant, Toshihiro Kasahara, teriyaki was a humble, yet hearty plate with the potential to nourish all classes and ages, eventually leading to a 'turn key' empire of Toshi's Teriyaki. Out of four Teriyaki joints I checked out today, a box of Teriyaki Chicken with rice and a green salad began at $5.49. Very affordable, and more nourishing than a super-sized Big Mac meal.

 

First Stop: Happy at the Bay Teriyaki XV

My cheerful hostess didn't know the reason for the name, but she noted that each location is independently owned. Close to the Renton Municipal Airport and a few doors down from Safeway, Happy was clean, bright, and quick.

With a three-hour allotment for  my four-restaurant Teriyaki tour, I found that while made fresh, Teriyaki might be the ultimate fast food. With a hint of skepticism, I ordered the #1 Chicken Teriyaki ($6.99) , billed as "Char-Broiled boneless chicken in our Happy Teriyaki Sauce." The order arrived in under 10 minutes. In fact, every restaurant was exceedingly quick, even with the sounds of furious chopping from the kitchen.  Salads and rice are pre-made and ready to go.

Happy's teriyaki might just be our favorite. The chicken meat had ample teriyaki sauce on top and a black pepper kick. I also added a side order of Kimchi ($3.50) that was exemplary. I'm truly excited to have discovered a local Kimchi source. Happy also offers Salmon Teriyaki, Oriental Salads, and a Happy Special with General Tao Chicken, Egg Roll, Chicken Teriyaki, rice and salad for $8.99.

 

Second Stop: Momma's Teriyaki & Pho

Tucked into a stark looking business strip next to the Fairwood Martial Arts Studio, you really have to know the place is there. And people do. I saw a young couple picking up takeout and a guy in camouflage heading in for a late lunch. Service is all business, with the older generation shuffling around in slippers behind the scenes.

At $5.49 for the Combo #2, Momma's definitely dished up the largest amount of chicken meat for the lowest price. The meat was piled over the rice and served with a thicker, slightly molasses-flavored sauce. I also decided to get a side order 8-piece gyoza ($3.79), which the teriyaki tester group mostly passed over. One diner said his dumpling had no filling, and I had a hard time discerning if it was ground pork or chicken. But, Momma's scored highest for their sesame-flavored salad dressing, even though some lettuce had browning edges. Happy's salad came with ranch, and Toshi's with a cup of sweet pale Italian-esque dressing.

 

Third stop: Toshi's Teriyaki Japanese & Chinese Restaurant

This Toshi's is located in a strip mall down from Saar's Marketplace. Toshi's Shoji screens, paper lanterns and carpeted dining room had the sleekest look. At the counter, service was professional and friendly. I was heartened by the sound of freshness, i.e. chopping in the background.

I upped my order to include an egg roll ($7.95). Toshi's regular-sized chicken teriyaki is $6.95.  While the egg roll's crispness suffered in transport, it was given good marks for the filling's flavor. Toshi's menu is definitely the most expansive with a large stir fry section, plus tempura, katsu, sushi rolls, noodles, bento, soups, and even Korean bi bim bap ($9.95). They have daily lunch specials, and advertise no MSG. Their sauce had a rich black soy flavor, and great char notes to the Teriyaki.

 

Fourth stop: Fuji Teriyaki

This Fairwood shop is in close proximity to another favorite of mine, Chiang's Gourmet. A short, but tight menu works well here. There's not much ambience except for the warmth of service at the counter. You can see right into the kitchen, and my order took slightly longer here due to the fact I added an order of tofu yakisoba ($7.99), with vegetables freshly chopped to order. Our youngest critic loved these noodles and ate a fist full of them at a time.

Fuji was a top contender for flavorful meat, but the sweeter style of sauce knocked it down a notch. Also the side of cabbage and carrots were raw, not stir-fried as advertised, and had no condiment or dressing. I would love to go back and try their Kimchi ($1.69), or their Kalbi — Beef Short Ribs ($9.99). And to think I've been complaining that Renton doesn't have Korean food!

I couldn't review all Renton's teriyaki in one day, so I'd love to hear if I missed your favorite.

 

Happy at the Bay Teriyaki XV

203 S. 2nd Street Renton, WA 98055

425-277-3200

Monday through Saturday 11 am to 9 pm

 

Momma's Teriyaki & Pho

16928 116th Avenue SE  Renton, WA 98058

425-227-8482

Monday through Saturday 11 am to 8 pm

 

Toshi's Teriyaki

3154 NE Sunset Boulevard  Renton, WA 98056

425-255-2233

Monday through Saturday 11 am to 9 pm

 

Fuji Teriyaki

17650 140th Avenue SE  Renton, WA 98058

425-228-3422

Monday through Saturday 11 am to 9 pm

Jenn November 10, 2011 at 09:04 PM
You missed I Luv Teriyaki next to Kim's Tae Kwon Do and Kim Phuong!
Catherine Reynolds November 10, 2011 at 11:14 PM
Thanks Jenn! I'll have to try it. I tried to spread the love around...
ira sacharoff November 11, 2011 at 12:32 AM
I'm partial to Teriyaki Box in the downtown Renton Fred Meyer mall.
Colin Walker November 11, 2011 at 06:14 AM
Don't forget Sushi & Teriyaki at the corner of Sunset & Duvall -- best teriyaki in Renton.
Taichi Kasahara May 09, 2012 at 03:05 AM
If you get a chance, you should swing by Toshi's Teriyaki Grill in downtown Renton. It's operated by Toshi Kasahara himself.

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