A2P Foodist: Restaurant Review — Teriyaki Time, Asian In Need of Tiger Mothering
By Elaine Hayes
Restaurant Review: + (no stars, poor to satisfactory)
Teriyaki Time — New Ann Arbor Japanese/Korean Restaurant
314 Detroit St., Ann Arbor, MI 48104
Hours: Mon-Sat: 10am – 9pm, Sun: 12am – 8pm
I was strolling through the Kerrytown Farmer’s Market and noticed a little eatery along Detroit Street that goes by the name of Teriyaki Time. Located across from Commie High, this place is self-described as a Japanese restaurant that brings the taste of teriyaki from the Pacific Northwest to Ann Arbor. Teriyaki is a cooking technique used in Japanese cuisine in which foods are broiled or grilled in a sweet soy sauce marinade (tare in Japanese). Is it new, cutting edge cuisine? Nope. Since the late 1980s McDonald’s in Hong Kong has offered a Teriyaki sandwich called the Shogun Burger. In Japanese McDonald’s restaurants it is known as the Teriyaki Burger. Beginning in 2007 Burger King has offered a hamburger called the Whopper Teriyaki in its Japanese restaurants. Local Subway restaurants offer Teriyaki sandwiches.
Teriyaki Time is in the building that once housed local legend DeLong’s BBQ pit. The place is still a pit in many ways. While I do not let shabby decor deter me, I was a little dubious about this place. Diners are greeted by peeling lineoleum on the floor and battered furniture. The rest room was filthy—a case for the health department. It appeared that they had a tube from the air conditioning unit draining directly into the sink that was filled with what I can only assume was black mold. In fact, the restaurant’s last inspection in February of 2011 turned up a report that included one critical violation and several non-critical violations all related to food handing and cleanliness. The restaurant has a food inspection rap sheet that goes back to March of 2010 filled with critical violations (though the most recent inspection turned up only one critical violation).
The menu is directly above the small window where you place your order and peruse options.
My choice was the Bi Bim Bop, a signature Korean dish which literally translates to “mixed meal.” Usually, it is warm white rice topped with sauteed vegetables, a raw or fried egg and sliced meat. For visual appeal, the vegetables are often placed so that adjacent colors compliment each other. My dish contained cucumber, lettuce, shredded carrot and a fried egg with the teriyaki beef. My lunch companion tried the Spicy Bits, which was lightly deep fried chicken bits with spicy teriyaki sauce served with rice. Brown rice is $.99 cents extra.
While I think that adding an egg to just about anything would only enhance the flavor, I was disappointed that it was hard-fried. I would have preferred the egg over easy. In Bi Bim Bop, when the egg is cut into, the soft yellow center should spread over the rest of the dish to add richness and enhance all of the other ingredients in much the same way fettucine carbonara is given life by that the raw egg in which the pasta is tossed at the last moment. Then, again, the server didn’t ask how I would like my egg cooked, or point out that I could have had the Stone Bowl (sizzling rice) Bi Bim Bop. This was poor service even for a joint that expects customers to hoof it back up to the window to pick up plates of hot food.
I wasn’t totally disappointed by my meal. The warm egg and meat served over rice meshed well with the cool, crisp vegetables. The cucumber slices were well marinated in rice vinegar. I would have appreciated a little more of the meat, but all in all, Teriyaki Time’s Bi Bim Bop wasn’t bad. As a side, I was served a Miso soup seasoned to perfection. Slightly crisp scallions floating in the flavorful broth added a nice touch.
I sampled my companion’s Spicy Bits. While I did enjoy the flavor of the dish, the fried tid bits of chicken were not crunchy. The dish’s spicy teriyaki sauce was just that. Spicy. The ginger sauce for the salad was one of the most flavorful I’ve had. It didn’t help that the brown rice served along side the Spicy Bits was underdone. I realize what a challenge it is to cook brown rice al dente, but come on, this is an Asian restaurant. Ironically, the restaurant’s latest critical violation handed out by the Washtenaw County food inspector concerned the proper cooling of the brown rice. The violation notes: FOUND NUMEROUS COVERED AND PORTIONED CONTAINERS OF BROWN RICE IMPROPERLY COOLED (BROWN RICE AT 90 F AFTER ALMOST 4 HOURS). PIC CORRECTED BY HAVING EMPLOYEE DISCARD BROWN RICE, AND REMINDED EMPLOYEE TO COOL RICE FROM 135 F TO 70 F IN 2 HOURS, AND THEN FROM 70 F TO 41 F IN 4 HOURS.
The brown rice that accompanied the chicken dish served on the afternoon I visited was poorly handled, as well.
The food was satisfactory; while I did appreciate the interesting Asian brick-a-brack scattered around on little shelves that lined the walls, the decor lacked cohesiveness. The tangerine colored walls and battered pink and black tables have seen better times, and should all see a new coat of paint. A cozy (read cramped) restaurant should be kept exceedingly clean. This one is not, and that is a shame. It’s a family-owned business, and in this economy any restaurant business that wants to thrive needs to pay close attention to detail.
If you want to eat at this establishment, get it to go! It’s teryaki basic, and cooking done without the care and attention to presentation or preparation one would expect at an Asian restaurant. In short, this place could use a little Tiger Mothering to whip the decor, service and food into shape. Prices for appetizers range from $.99 cents for a serving of kim chee, to $9.95 for an appetizer sampler. Entrees are priced at $6.95-$12.95 (salmon teriyaki). A “create your own” Bento Box will set you back $12.95.
The Star System
A2Politico’s star system rates restaurants on the following scale.
**** — Extraordinary
*** — Excellent
** — Very Good
* — Good
None Poor to Satisfactory
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