After slogging northward through the overwhelming number of teriyaki restaurants on the Ave, the last thing anyone would want to see upon arriving in Wedgwood is yet another giant red sign screaming TERIYAKI in all caps. The sight of the all-too-familiar sign may induce fits of panic as memories are conjured of sauce-drenched, poor-quality fowl with shining gristle still clinging to the sides.
Take a breath and muster the courage to give teriyaki one more try. Yes, I (heart) Bento has the sign, but you won't find any suspiciously chewy bits of fat leeched on to your chicken here. Recognized as the neighborhood's inexpensive teriyaki joint, I (heart) Bento deserves attention from beyond Northeast Seattle .
Besides the vibrant TERIYAKI on the side of the building, the I (heart) Bento sign hanging above the entrance appears to be stenciled and cut from red and white paper board. The lack of effective signage could be considered either charming or completely disarming (likely the latter for anyone still recovering from the teriyaki barrage of
the U District). Either way, it gives the restaurant a hole-in-the-wall vibe where you can rest assured that you won't pay more than $10 for most items.
Menu choices are fairly standard: yakisoba, fried rice, a couple sushi rolls, stir fry, and of course teriyaki. A California roll/chicken teriyaki combo plate is $9.84 and comes with sticky white rice and sides of wasabi and ginger for the rolls. The meal was prepared
shockingly fast, in roughly the time it took to use the restroom and open the front page of the paper. Yet the rapid prep succeeded, with chicken that was lean, hot, slathered in sweet teriyaki without being drenched, and free of disguised gristle.
Meanwhile, the California rolls could easily have been mistaken for clumps of rice. That said, the accompanying wasabi was spicy and, if not fresh, at least not stale like the reconstituted powder form often used. It may not be especially creative, but I (heart) Bento provides reliable teriyaki. And in Seattle's teriyaki realm, reliable is a welcome break from a long, proud, yet oft-lackluster tradition.
I (heart) Bento, 7500 35th Ave. N.E., 525-0589, WEDGWOOD