Enjoy bibimbab

Friendly service and Korean specialties are highlights at new downtown restaurant

The chalupas of Taco Bell have been replaced with the <i>bibimbab</i> bowls of Enjoy Teriyaki.

The chalupas of Taco Bell have been replaced with the bibimbab bowls of Enjoy Teriyaki.

PHOTOs by melanie mactavish

Enjoy Teriyaki
450 Broadway
Open daily 11 a.m-9 p.m. (till 3 a.m., Friday & Saturday)

Healthful fast food is an oxymoron, right? Not at Enjoy Teriyaki.

I wandered into the former Taco Bell on Broadway a few weeks ago expecting, well, a former Taco Bell. What greeted me instead was a spiffed-up dining room and a friendly Korean man with a big grin and kind eyes.

“Good morning!” he said, loudly and warmly.

I looked quietly at my watch to confirm that it was, indeed, still morning. Barely.

Having read the glowing Yelp reviews of the new downtown eatery, I was eager to chow down on some delicious teriyaki. Looking at the simple menu at the counter, however, I found myself unsure of what to order.

“This is my first time here,” I offered as an explanation for my slowness.

“Your first time?” asked the man who, as it turned, was the owner, John Chuen. “Try the bento box!”

He pointed to a picture on the wall and my decision was made. The bento box ($9.50) appeared to be a nice sampler of the menu, and included teriyaki (beef or chicken), California rolls, tempura, salad and a Korean noodle dish called japchae. While I waited, I surveyed the restaurant. The inside has been transformed with high tables and faux-bamboo décor. Plants liven it up and the colorful dishes upon which the food is served are a nice upgrade.

Once served, I made quick work of the meal in front of me. I dove into the teriyaki chicken first and … disappointment. Don’t get me wrong—it wasn’t bad—but the meat seemed processed and the teriyaki sauce, while flavorful, was strangely lumpy. Not letting that get me down, I picked up a tempura shrimp and my smile returned with a satisfying crunch. Pure perfection! The tempura veggies were excellent as well, with the sole exception of the broccoli, which was undercooked for my taste.

Also on my plate were the delightfully understated japchae (clear sweet-potato noodles with subtle sesame flavor), and the slightly out-of-place California roll, which, with just avocado and snow-crab filling was missing a bit of crunchy texture.

All in all, my first visit was just so-so. My gut had told me to try the teriyaki because, well, it’s the restaurant’s namesake, but after seeing some of the other menu options I vowed I’d return for the bibimbab, a staple of Korean cuisine. I followed through on that promise, and boy, was I happy that I did.

Bibimbab ($8.50) is a beautifully presented dish, with the main ingredients—beef, chicken (this time I chose beef) or tofu, spinach, carrots, zucchini, bean sprouts and lettuce—arranged in individual segments atop short-grain white rice, with a chopped-up fried egg in the middle like a cherry on top.

“You have to stir it all together just before you eat it,” the owner explained while handing me my order, along with the house-made chili-pepper paste to go with it. I also opted to try the gyoza (potstickers), which at $4.50 for eight, is an amazing deal. The ones at Enjoy Teriyaki are crave-worthy—crunchy on the outside, moist and full of flavor on the inside.

I’m always surprised by something when I try a new restaurant, and at Enjoy Teriyaki that thing was the bibimbab. I will definitely be returning for more of that and those potstickers. It’s those Korean dishes that set Enjoy Teriyaki apart.

Added bonus: The restaurant offers beer and sake and is open late—till 3 a.m.!—on the weekends. Also, not enough can be said about the customer service. Owner Chuen is so inviting, it’s impossible not to walk out smiling.