Hidden Kimchi: Enjoy Teriyaki, Chico, Calif.
Located in a far Northern California college and beer berg, Enjoy Teriyaki has a fast-food or fast-casual vibe in decor and setup. It’s in a former Taco Bell restaurant space. There are no servers. You order at the counter for pickup when your name is called.
The restaurant’s main appeal is a menu of tasty hot-and-a-lot Asian-American favorites that appeal to students from nearby Chico State University.
The menu includes photos of many of the popular dishes. The fare spans Asian cuisine but focuses on Japanese, Chinese and Korean favorites such as sushi, 김밥 kimbap, tempura, teriyaki, 비빔밥 bibimbap and 잡채 japchae. The Korean offerings are solidly executed, but there’s little fusion beyond American iceberg lettuce salad in place of 반찬 banchan (side dishes such as 김치 kimchi). (You can get a healthy helping of kimchi for $3.) There is no kimchi mac and cheese or Korean tacos.
I ordered japchae with beef, white and green onion, carrot, spinach and mushroom ($13.95). The plate includes rice and salad — iceberg lettuce drizzled with ranch dressing.
I liked Enjoy Teriyaki’s version of japchae, which can be hard to do. Most of the japchae I have eaten in restaurants over the years were made with sauces that had way too much of one item or other, usually soy sauce. This japchae hit the sweet balance between sesame oil, garlic, soy sauce, onion and pepper.
On another visit, I ordered kimbap ($6.95) filled with grilled beef, egg omelet, spinach, yellow pickled daikon radish, shredded carrot and iceberg lettuce.
Yes, kimbap is rice rolled in seaweed, similar to Japanese sushi. But key differences are a savory-sweet treatment of the sticky rice for kimbap, led by a touch of sesame oil, while sushi rice is flavored with vinegar. Another difference with kimbap is bibimbap-style fillings, rather than a leaning toward seafood and raw meat (sashimi).
When I walked up to the counter to make my order, I was immediately offered a loyalty card. It looked like one of those “buy 10 meals and get something free” type cards. I quickly declined, since I was coming from out of town, but many seemingly haven’t. A sea of colorful completed loyalty cards is prominently displayed on a wall behind the counter.
Yelp reviews rate this restaurant 4.5 out of 5 stars.
Going with the no-nonsense approach to this place, a TV played CNN quietly in the back of the restaurant on the Tuesday evening I visited.
And what would a typical college town be without booze. The alcohol menu features Sierra Nevada beer — the hometown brew — soju and hot sake. Teetotaler fare are PepsiCo soft drinks and a variety of boba (bubble) teas, a popular drink in Asia.
450 Broadway St., Chico, CA 95928, 530-899-9344 facebook.com/EnjoyTeriyaki