I never got a chance to write up the Osaka Grill in Meridian before they went the way of so many other independent restaurants over the last few years, and that’s really too bad because I was a fan. Their stuff was a more oily, less healthy version of Asian grill food, but it was still tasty (I still miss their yakisoba in particular). One day I drove over to get some noodles, and there was a sign up saying that they would be closed for a few months. A few weeks later it hat been replaced by a “for lease” sign. I watched the spot for a long time, cruising by every so often when I was in the area. I figured that sooner or later another eatery would open there, and hoped it would be another Asian one. Then one day I was driving past and and noticed that a new sign was hanging in the window. I thought I could tell what it said but I didn’t believe my eyes and pulled in for a closer look. Sure enough, “Coming Soon, Shige Japanese Cuisine“. I was very, very excited by this prospect, but had no clue how they were going to fit everything that Shige does into that little space. The answer finally came when the final sign was hung: they weren’t.
Okay, I’ll admit it. I was a little disappointed. Shige’s original sushi and general Japanese cuisine restaurant has expanded over the years to include conveyor-belt sushi, a cocktail lounge, a teppanyaki setup, and a fine dining area incorporating more of the chef’s experience with French cuisine. Even knowing of Shige’s flair for diversification, I expected more of a Jack-of-all-trades eatery from his first satellite operation, but a teriyaki joint? And so quickly after the opening of Yokozuna Teriyaki‘s Meridian branch too! Still, Shige had never disappointed me, and I knew I was going to have to check the place out. An e-mail recommendation from one of my readers who visited early on in the soft opening stage further solidified that resolve. So recently, before heading out to see a showing of Super 8, we decided to hit the newest member of Shige’s increasingly vast culinary empire.
|Shige Teriyaki menu|
“We” was a group comprised of myself, my mother, my sister, and my sister’s boyfriend, Shige fans all. Upon entering, I was already surprised. The look of the place owed more to the cafeteria-style grill that had occupied the space previously than to any of Shige’s other operations. The large, close-up pictures of every menu item lining one entire wall and part of another were definitely helpful, especially since the menu itself has no descriptions and contained a few items even I was unfamiliar with. Mom and Sis knew what they were going to get before they even set foot in the door. Despite the name of the place, there are only three teriyaki items out of 24 available entrées, and since there were a few sushi rolls to choose from that’s exactly what they did: Spicy Tuna Roll for Sis, and a Sugar Daddy for Mom. My sister’s boyfriend is a fellow pork addict, and ended up getting the Katsudon. As for me, I had been agonizing over what to choose all day. Prior to arriving, I had decided that as much as I may want to try Shige’s takes on curry or yakisoba, I wanted to have something not normally seen on Japanese menus around here. After very nearly picking Yakiniku or Pork Shogayaki several times I eventually settled on Oyakodon, a dish I’ve never seen a restaurant offer but one which I’ve made myself, hoping that would give me a better frame of reference. I also added an order of Gyoza, intending to trade them for morsels from the plates of my companions. Somehow I was concentrating so hard on my menu choice that I completely forgot that there was bubble tea available, even though I love it and there were some interesting flavors on hand, and ended up ordering a soda instead.
|Sugar Daddy Rolls|
The sushi was first to arrive, and by a rather wide margin at that. Something perhaps to keep in mind if you’re ordering both sushi and a grilled or fried item, or if your party is. If the price seems a little high, keep in mind that you get two rolls of six pieces each for that amount. There ended up being a lot of sampling and sharing as it turns out, so perhaps the gyoza weren’t necessary, and everyone liked this dish. Everyone except me. Something about the combination of the sauce used and the cream cheese in the roll perhaps, maybe even the shredded lettuce…I don’t know what put me off about it, and it certainly wasn’t disgusting or anything, it just didn’t grab me. I think I prefer my sushi a little more traditional (meaning probably without cream cheese), and everyone else at the table thought I was crazy, so who can say which opinion is more valid? Don’t let me put you off the roll if you want to try it, keep in mind that it had a 75% approval rating at our table.
|Spicy Tuna Rolls|
Ah, the spicy tuna roll. A perennial favorite, American sushi standard, and one of the exceptions to my aforementioned preference for traditional sushi. I was pleased to see that Shige’s delicious spicy sauce had made the trip to Meridian, both in flavor and quantity (most places put a dollop of sauce on each piece of roll, while Shige seems to use a spoonful). Everyone dug this one, even my mother, at least as much as she was able to considering she’s a bigger wimp about spicy food that I used to be. I swear I could sit and watch a movie with a plate of these next to me and just pop them like candy.
I mentioned before that the gyoza probably weren’t necessary, but that doesn’t mean I’m not glad I ordered them. I had never had deep-fried pot stickers before, and I have to say I was impressed. It gave a completely different kind of texture, and the filling was amazing. Even better, after we had eaten them all, we had a communal bowl we could take extra rice from!
The Katsudon was equally impressive, and showed me just how amateur my own attempts at making tonkatsu have been. I’m not a big pork chop fan, but I could eat them this way. Thick, juicy, and with a breading so thin it’s amazing how effective it was, the egg adding a custardy element that gave it even more of a comfort food feel. This is a dish I would happily order myself…once I’ve worked my way through some more of the menu.
Finally, we come to the main event (at least of my meal). I understand that a lot of people probably find the above picture a little unappetizing, not because I share that opinion but because half of the people who have seen it told me it is. To this I would say that a LOT of comfort food isn’t exactly pretty, I mean why do you think so many casseroles end up topped with bread crumbs or crushed crackers or potato chips? And believe me, this is definitely comfort food. Basically you take chicken and onion cut into pieces and simmer it in a combination of (typically) dashi, mirin, soy sauce and sugar. During the last few minutes of cooking, you pour some lightly beaten egg on top and cover the pot so the egg kind of steams and poaches at the same time. As I said, I’ve made this at home, but with nowhere near the level of expertise shown here. First, they grilled the chicken rather than just cooking it in the pot, and that little bit of extra flavor definitely took the dish to a different level. The broth was perfectly balanced, savory but mild and with a little sweetness to it. The eggs added a rich, almost velvety touch. With all the flavors soaking down into the rice, it was even more of a treat than I usually find rice to be, especially with a little Sriracha mixed in.
At the end of the meal, everyone was satisfied (maybe a little past satisfied in one or two cases). I’ve agonized about posting this review because I desperately want to go back and try some more things, but in the end I guess it’s enough to say that Shige Teriyaki is one of my new favorite places and I intend to go back on a fairly regular basis, especially when you consider the punch card that gives you a free entrée once you’ve purchased ten. For now, I’ll just have to be happy to do my part getting the word out about this little gem. My single, solitary complaint would be their use of those break-apart bamboo chopsticks that so many places use. There are smooth, pre-separated ones available, and I wouldn’t even mind reusable chopsticks like I’ve seen at some restaurants in other cities. If anyone in Shige’s circle ends up reading this, please tell him I’ll forgive the chopsticks if he’ll start making Okonomiyaki at one of his restaurants. Please?
Final Grade: A-