Saturday, September 6, 2008

A Few Teriyaki Chicken Between Burger Buns

The MOS Teriyaki Chicken Burger. I Love it too.
I will dissect (in my memory) and try explaining why..

Tender moist chicken (skin on!) with hints of grill flavor, well balanced Teriyaki glaze (not too sweet, not too goopy, lots of umami), a good amount of crisp lettuce (never underestimate the need for this!), a few rings of thinly sliced white onions (this too!), and yes I even stand by the often controversial dollop of Creamy Japanese Mayo. (It's only controversial outside of Japan..)
All these well thought out ingredients between a fine textured perfectly spongy buns.

Doesn't seem so complicated visually. But the reason why I believe MOS was able to create this masterpiece (imho) was because they had a concept.
And the concept was simply this.. "To create the enjoyment of eating a great Yakitori-style Chicken between Hamburger Buns.."

There it began almost a quarter of a decade ago.

MOS' TCB Japanese literature here..

Before I continue, I just want to say that I'm not a Teriyaki Chicken Sandwich snob. That would be silly and if I ever became a snob at anything I would hope it is of something more.. significant?

I've been occasionally trying a TCS here and there and I casually gathered a sampling of some to be had in my town of San Diego.

To start would be from one of the few meals I've had so far at Kealani's in Encinitas.

Teriyaki Chicken Sandwich ($3.95).

A nice looking marinated grilled chicken on toasted wheat buns with Lettuce and a lovely slice of fresh Tomato. The Chicken turned out to be a bit on the dry side, especially when you consider it was the Thigh which is usually moist and tender.

I still greatly enjoyed this sandwich though and the price which includes Fries is definitely right. A complete and affordable lunch meal which I wouldn't think twice about getting again.

Some thoughts.. I could live without Mayo but a few Onion Slices would've been nice for me personally. In any case my question of whether French Fries were good with Teriyaki Sauce was answered this day and that is a yes. :)

Kealani's, 137 W D St, Encinitas, CA 92024

My next two are from different L&L Hawaiian BBQ locations.
I've heard many times the phrase "Not all L&L's are created equal.." and found this so very true with this experi-mience (experiment experience).

Until this point I've only been to the La Jolla branch and only twice at that so I thought I'd try their TCS one afternoon. Since I had an overall neutral averaging experience, maybe this will sway me one way or the other.

Here it is called the BBQ Chicken Sandwich ($5.25).

Spending over five-dollars for just the sandwich sounded rather steep but it did look pretty good. And it was but with one hiccup..
A nice looking (and fresh tasting!) Grilled Teriyaki Chicken (thigh), Tomato, Onions, Lettuce, some Mayo.. So far so good.. But Ketchup??

Actually there was one other spoiler and it was their free fill-er-up Teriyaki Sauce by the condiments area. It was hardly sweet with a salty/bitter Soy Sauce and Ginger flavor.

Provided the ketchup was an oversight and the communal Teriyaki Sauce was caught on an off day, the great grilled chicken and toasty sesame seed buns did make me want to return again.. Sort of.. until I remembered its unusually high price. Darn, I just can't help feeling neutral about this place.

I checked out the Sports Arena - Point Loma location not so long after. I also ordered a Spam Musubi on the side.

Before I started I had to take a snap of their cute Spam Musubi wrapping.. I'm a big sucker for presentation.

The total was $5.50 ($3.50 for the Sandwich). That's more like it.. I first thought. Until I started to see that things were Very Different.

The buns were plain, and although the chicken was a relatively generous portion, it seemed to lack the fresh taste and hot grill char of what I had in La Jolla. Seemed almost as if it were heated in a frying pan although I can't confirm this. The flavor of the meat was monotonous and I felt maybe it was marinated too long.

What were still the same though was the veggies, light mayo, and as I took another bite.. That darn ketchup again!

The Spam Musubi was standard fare. I have to say of the better though because I have since been into places that where skimpy on the Spam and cut too thin. A nice 1/4" here. And by the way.. What sort of cheap skate do you have to be to skimp on Spam??

Some thoughts.. If I return to the La Jolla location for another TCS I must remember to ask without ketchup. The Point Loma location's other dishes may be better but I personally don't recommend the BBQ Chicken. Fyi, if you make it now, you get a free "I ♥ L&L" sticker!

I heard better things about the Hillcrest location and would probably visit there next.

L&L Hawaiian Barbecue, 3145 Sports Arena Blvd, San Diego, CA, 92110
L&L Hawaiian Barbecue, 4150 Regents Park Row, La Jolla, CA, 92037

One day wanting to try a maybe more Japanese take, I decided to check out Teri Cafe off of Clairemont Mesa Blvd. I went cold because I just assumed they would have a Teriyaki Chicken Sandwich. Disappointedly wasn't so (but they do serve it plate style).
The following day lunch hour was a quick trip up to the Sorrento Valley food court to Tiki Hut to only find it closed. Not sure if it is permanent since everything seemed intact with just the shutters lowered.

As I was planning where to go for another Teriyaki Chicken Sandwich, I didn't know my next would be at a most unexpected spot. The SD Chicken Pie Shop.

The SD Chicken Pie House is another strange and dedicated post worthy place that I will have to gather up my photos and do some time. Can a place be loved strictly for nostalgia? My answer would be, "on occasion, yes."

Anyway, this day on the Specials Board listed a Teriyaki Chicken Sandwich and Fries for $4.50.

Since Chicken was their specialty, I thought what the heck. If anything it would make for interesting writing maybe.

As you can see, came with my Teriyaki pet peeve Grilled Pineapples. But they had such wonderful grill marks on them I decided to try it with, at least for the first few bites.

On a side note, my Burger Shots always look like they're the ones that are about to take a bite out of me. It's because my other hand is occupied by a camera and while I can invent a "hands free" mouth-held camera mount, I will run the small risk of looking sillier than I already am to most taking photos of my food.

So back to the Sandwich.. While the Thigh meat was on the tender side, it seemed to have been marinated in plain soy sauce prior to the Teriyaki. So although the outer glaze was sweet, the Chicken itself had a rather salty and bitter aftertaste. I decided to do without the pineapples not long after and it was a perfectly fine meal to be had (especially considering its price), just probably not the best example of a nicely executed Teriyaki Chicken Sandwich.

Some thoughts.. Pineapples aside, I can definitely do without the pickle slices.

SD Chicken Pie Shop, 2633 El Cajon Blvd, San Diego, CA 92104

If I were trying to make a point with my first MOS example, that is that nothing should be an after thought.

The Chicken Teriyaki Sandwich ($7.25) at the Big Kahuna's in Pacific Beach serves theirs on a fresh Hawaiian Bread Bun made daily with fine shredded Cabbage, Tomatoes, Red Onions and a bit of Mayo.

While it was the most expensive of the one's I've had so far, a Big Kahuna it was and I was only able to eat half.
Very moist Chicken with a sweet Teriyaki glaze that had an additional pleasant ginger flavor. Maybe a little too sweet for my part Japanese taste buds but the other half I had the next morning cold was fantastic.

This strong local Hawaiian flare I found quite refreshing. (Wow a concept!)
This creative spirit went throughout the entire menu and was what I really most admired about Big Kahuna's. What is that in the background you ask?

They are the Big Kahuna Balls (I'm not making this up). Gooey, moist, slight buttery, nice garlicky, and above all..


While they were a bit high in Carb factor for me personally, I know quite a few friends who would have found these just short of amazing.
I need to be back for their Big Kahuna Burger so I can post and share the story the gentleman server had told me of how it came about in the movie Pulp Fiction.

Big Kahuna's, 3780 Ingraham St, San Diego, CA 92109

I'm thinking again now of MOS' mission statement concept.. Perfect Yakitori between burger buns can certainly be expanded to so much more..
With grilled Japanese Naga-Negi Leeks (Negima style), Scallions, Asparagus.. What about a plain, grilled juicy with only Coarse Salt and Wasabi? Mmm, I'm getting hungry!

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