There’s more than meets the eye when it comes to teriyaki.
Many considerations come into play for those who deal in this kind of Japanese comfort cuisine.
For instance, teriyaki sauces (usually made with soy sauce, ginger, garlic and brown sugar) vary from restaurant to restaurant — some thick, some thin. The cuts of meat are another regard that leads to the success of teriyaki. Then you got your rice. Steamed white rice is the norm, but brown rice surely offers more flavor.
As you can see, teriyaki is hardly void of nuance. It’s more than just grilled meat served with steamed rice and veggies.
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One thing’s for sure: The smell of marinated, grilled meats — giving off that smoky, gingery and soy sauce aroma — is incredibly alluring.
Happy Teriyaki, a chain of franchise-owned restaurants in Washington and Idaho, recently opened a new location in Eagle next to Lilly Jane’s Cupcakes.
The fast-casual restaurant covers the bases well in terms of teriyaki. It operates a typical order-at-the-counter system, which during busy times can get a little crowded in the front area. But the line moves quickly, and you’ll be delighted by the friendliness of the employees, who go out of their way to make dining here a pleasurable experience.
Happy Teriyaki specializes in large portions of teriyaki (served with steamed rice and veggies), yet diners also can score other Nipponese offerings such as stir-fried udon noodles, fried rice, tempura and a few expected sides — served on earthenware platters.
And let’s not forget all those fruity bubble teas with chewy tapioca pearls at the bottom.
Chicken seems to be the bellwether protein at most teriyaki joints. Happy Teriyaki offers a few options in the poultry department.
I recommend ordering the regular chicken teriyaki ($8.50) because the darker thigh meat — grilled and sliced into toothsome pieces — handles the heat of the grill well without getting dried out. The super-tender chicken, slightly caramelized around the edges, came with boring white rice and a small pile of steamed cabbage, broccoli and carrot.
In contrast to the thigh meat, the chicken breast teriyaki ($9.50), ordered hot and spicy (add 50 cents), was a little dry and rubbery. The sliced chicken, coated in fiery chili paste, came with nutty-tasting brown rice, upon request, and steamed veggies.
Most certainly go for the chicken thigh teriyaki and brown rice, hit with a squeeze of thick, gingery teriyaki sauce kept in squirt bottles near the counter.
Pork teriyaki ($9.50) is another good choice for hungry eaters. A large pile of smoky and sweet grilled pork loin, tender and displaying pronounced grill marks, became lunch and dinner for me. (I took the leftovers home).
I probably wouldn’t order the beef teriyaki ($9.95) again. It’s made with skirt steak, which picks up good marinated flavors but has the propensity to be dry. That’s definitely the case here, at least during one visit.
As for appetizers, you might want to skip the gyoza dumplings ($3.95), mostly because the little wok-seared wonton purses — filled with a standard pork and cabbage mixture — were dry and leathery.
A side of chicken katsu ($5.50), a panko-breaded and fried chicken breast, also was on the dry side. It came with a syrupy katsu sauce (sweetened soy sauce thickened with ketchup) that did its best to help the tough bird.
You can’t go wrong with the shrimp tempura ($5.50), though. Three large, butterflied shrimps (showing their pointy tails) were tender and briny underneath a light and crispy tempura coating, served with seasoned soy sauce.
Vegetarians should like the yaki u-dong with tofu ($9.95). This wok-fried tangle of ropy udon buckwheat noodles was pocked with cubes of soybean curd, broccoli, cabbage and carrot, lightly coated in a somewhat sweet dark gravy.
Besides the teriyaki dishes, the gluten-free crowd also can go wheatless with shrimp fried rice ($9.50), a fresh-tasting hodgepodge of wok-seared white rice dotted with plump peas, diced carrot, scramble egg curds and just enough tender shrimpies to make it worth the price.
One thing worth noting in the end: Happy Teriyaki’s food is not overly salty like this kind of cuisine can often be. The kitchen lets the marinades and sauces do the talking, and I didn’t have to drink a gallon of water when I got home to avoid being totally parched.
Statesman reviewers pay for their meals and attempt to dine anonymously. Email James Patrick Kelly: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Address: 664 S. Rivershore Lane, Eagle
Hours: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday-Saturday
Menu price range: sides $1.95-$5.50; teriyaki, noodles and rice dishes $6.50-$10.95
Kid friendly? Yes. Kids love bubble tea.
Wheelchair accessible? Yes
Opened: January 2016