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In the last few paragraphs of his teriyaki opus, former Weekly critic Jonathan Kauffman revealed that Seattle's best teriyaki is whichever teriyaki is closest to your stomping grounds. "I've eaten at a dozen teriyaki shops in the past two weeks, and the quality has varied wildly," he wrote. "I've suffered through dry mystery meat covered in soy-flavored pancake syrup, and devoured juicy chicken thighs lacquered in a complex salty-sweet marinade. The two shops I will seek out again? The one around the corner from my office, and the one just down the street from my house."
We wouldn't dare challenge Kauffman's conclusions, but -- on the off-chance you find yourself in a teriyaki mood while away from home or work -- we've rounded up the city's 10 best teriyaki choices (including one around the corner from our office.) As always, the winner's in the number one slot, the finalists are listed in no particular order, and Erin Thompson compiled contributors' comments.
*See Also: Seattle's Top 10 Middle Eastern Restaurants
10. Teriyaki Madness
When your plastic box of spicy chicken teriyaki at Teriyaki Madness is handed over to you, brace yourself. If unprepared, the weight of the thing may snap your wrist. Teriyaki Madness is not fooling around when it comes to portions, and it seems like nearly two pounds of chicken and rice are served up in each order. Madness serves up a mix of thinly sliced breast meat mixed with dark thigh meat, all juicy and bearing delightfully blackened, char-grilled edges and tips. Miraculously, you could call this teriyaki sauce a few other things before you even got to sweet: garlicky, gingery, peppery, rich with soy.
9. Nasai Teriyaki
This narrow U-District restaurant caters to the neighborhood's college crowd with such budget-friendly deals as the Nasai special--a huge portion of chicken teriyaki, rice, salad, 4 gyozas (which are golden, crunchy, and a popular crowd favorite), and a soda for $6.75. Nasai's teriyaki sauce leans toward the sweeter side; it's delicious drizzled over the juicy chicken or the thin-sliced grilled beef, and it's a nice complement to the creamy, sweet salad dressing.
At University Teriyaki, the chicken-beef teriyaki combo comes with two mounds of meat (the owner claims he serves up to 22 ounces per order), two perfectly formed globes of rice, and a carrot-flecked iceberg-lettuce salad drizzled with a loose, sweet ranch dressing. The edges of the shaved beef almost crackle from the caramelized sugars in their marinade, and the sliced grilled chicken thighs glisten with a thick, brown, sweet-salty teriyaki sauce. In case you need more to smother your rice in, there's an additional squeeze bottle on each table.
Interbay's Sunny Teriyaki is popular for its friendly staff, the creamy dressing that tops the side salads, and its zingy spicy chicken teriyaki--although the regular salty, soy-heavy teriyaki sauce gets high marks as well. And Sunny is the place to hit if you're craving variety in your meal. Combinations with Chinese dishes are available (served in a bowl and all around the $8 mark), so if you need some Kung Pao chicken or broccoli beef alongside your teriyaki, they've got you covered.
This Ballard joint has everything you might expect from a teriyaki house and more, with extras such as a selection of rice vermicelli dishes and jars of chili oil on every table. (The menu also encompasses noodles, banh mi, and wonton soup). The place is clean is but crammed in tight; your best option is to order at the counter and take it to go. The teriyaki dishes are plentiful, and the health-conscious have the option of brown rice instead of white.
Starting with a Queen Anne location in 1976, Toshi Kashara built a revolving empire around his distinctive sauce of sugar, soy and chicken juice, opening and selling teriyaki shops. He later franchised Toshi's, creating a string of restaurants across the city, quit the business for a few years, and then returned in 2012 with Toshi's Teriyaki Grill in Renton. There are sandwiches on the menu, but the Kasaharas are otherwise sticking to the business model Toshi Kasahara pioneered 35 years ago--keeping it clean and cheap. A chicken teriyaki plate is just $4.75, proving that giving customers a bargain is paramount to Kashara's business strategy.
4. Teriyaki 1st
Teriyaki restaurants' penchant for big, cheap portions make their food an ideal meal for a starving student; accordingly, there's a spate of teriyaki places on the U-District's Ave. At the tiny hole-in-the-wall Teriyaki 1st, any type of teriyaki you desire--chicken, pork, salmon, shrimp--will cost you under $7 and come accompanied by just the right amount of sweet sauce, a heap of rice, and a crispy salad with a gingery dressing. The spicy chicken teriyaki is the hands-down favorite dish here--and if you ask, they'll sautee in some fresh broccoli and onions.
If Seattle is the teriyaki capital of the U.S., then Kyoto is one of the places that helped put us on the map. The seating space is small and not all that comfortable, so you may want to do what the locals do and order takeout. The teriyaki--chicken, beef, pork, or shrimp--is tasty and it comes out fast. Other menu favorites are the gyoza, yakisoba and the katsu. The enormous combination dinners will feed two people, or end up being two meals for you.
This bustling corner shop does a brisk business stemming neighborhood office dwellers' cravings for something Asian: there's all the soy, sesame oil and ginger a rice-and-noodle fan could want. Okinawa offers dozens of ways for diners to get their take-out beef, chicken, pork or tofu fix, from teriyaki to katsu to teppanyaki. The vegetables are firm and fresh, and you can add an extra boost to the kitchen's seasoning from the blessedly over-sized Sriracha bottle on the counter. Office workers will also appreciate the value: Portions are huge and cheap.
Tucked in on the corner of Dravus St. and 15th Ave. in Magnolia, Yasuko's Teriyaki might not be much to look at it, but it's what's inside that counts, right? Yasuko's menu comprises about seven items. The gingery teriyaki beef is so popular it regularly sells out, and the spicy chicken is tender and juicy, with a richness of flavor that can only have come from some quality marination. Portions here are huge, but if you're feeling extra hungry, Yasuko's offers a half chicken roasted and basted in teriyaki sauce.