Tess on the Town: Thumbs up for Kuniko’s teriyaki
The sampuru, or sample foods, are the first thing you notice arriving at Kuniko’s Teriyaki Grill.
Plastic models sculpted to look like actual dishes are on display in the front window of Kunkio’s, much as they are across thousands of restaurants from Kyoto to Osaka.
The fake food displays don’t look very appetizing to me, but they are a good indicator of traditional Japanese food.
Kuniko’s, located in a shopping center on Patterson, has a minimally decorated and light atmosphere. With 10 tables and a short counter, it’s small enough to feel homey. The pop Japanese music playing lightly in the background and the customers, many students at Colorado Mesa University, make it lively.
Running the back of the operation is Kuniko Kaneiwa. Out front is her daughter, Rie. The pair, natives of Japan, have run the restaurant for five years.
Kuniko makes from scratch miso and peanut dressing, curry, yakisoba and teriyaki sauces,and pretty much everything else on the menu. What could be more homestyle Japanese than hamburg, a version of Salisbury steaks served with Japanese or Indian curry spices?
Both sushi lovers and those who prefer their food cooked will find plenty of options on the menu, including soups, noodle bowls, katsu don, yakitori, tempura and fried rice.
We skipped on appetizers, although the gyoza dumplings and karaage (Japan’s version of fried chicken) were tempting. Instead, we sampled our way through the menu, trying to taste as many things as possible.
Sushi rolls, sashimi and nigiri are traditional and made to order, from the California and Seattle rolls for the timid, to a sashimi combo with octupus, roe and eel.
Some of the items we had while grazing: salmon roll; $2 nigiri plates of yellowtail, eel, Tamago and mackerel; chicken teriyaki; seaweed salad, Miso soup; Inari and warm sake.
Inari, which I had never tried before, is a simple pita-shaped pocket made of sweet fried tofu and stuffed with sushi rice and sesame seeds. It was a nice addition to the table, a slight bite of sweet, between all the other dishes.
Everything we had was fresh, delicious and visibly attractive. Even the common dishes, such as miso soup and cabbage with peanut dressing, were a touch above.
Our server was attentive, appearing at our table regularly with a new dish to tease the palate. Don’t wait for a check, though. Common practice is to head to the register to pay.
And best of all, my husband has finally found a source of teriyaki to satisfy him. The sauce on this chicken was sublimely perfect, thick enough to stick but thin enough to not to smother.
Said husband has been whining forever that he can’t find a chicken teriyaki to match his favorite spot back in Denver. Some households buy ketchup in bulk. In our house, it’s teriyaki. But, back to the subject at hand.
Kuniko’s prices are reasonable and the food we had was right on. It’s the kind of place that could become a regular haunt.
FOOD QUIZ: What preserved product was developed and patented by Lauchlan Rose in 1867 to save English sailors from developing scurvy on long voyages?
QUOTE: “There is a vast difference between the savage and the civilised (sic) man, but it is never apparent to their wives until after breakfast.” — Helen Rowland (1876–1950), “A Guide to Men”