Welcome back to Dining On A Dime a bi-weekly feature in which Lizbeth Scordo surveys LA's cheap eats—often obscure, ethnic, unsung restaurants—proving that dining on a dime is alive, well, and quite tasty in this here city. Where do you think she should go next? Drop us a line.
The first thing you'll notice about QBowl Quality Teriyaki Bowl (a redundant name, for sure, but the official one) is the clean factor. Even the kitchen, which customers can see through a glass cutout behind the cash register, looks as spic-and-span as they come. When I ask the sole front-of-the-house employee when the restaurant opened, I expect her to say "last Tuesday," but it's actually been eight months. The dining room, with gleaming granite, slate, and cherry wood cabinets fit for a gated community's model home, isn't all that packed the Friday afternoon I'm in for lunch. There's just a two-top of twentysomething guys, a solo diner sitting at a window bar stool, and a thankfully muted Fran Drescher drinking a martini while participating in a cooking segment on a huge flat-screen TV that no one's watching. Still, the QBowl employee stays busy the whole time I'm there, packing up box after box of orders for delivery and takeout (placed by those already with a menu in their possession, I'm assuming, since the restaurant doesn't have a website and refuses to fax their offerings to anyone).
Teriyaki bowls seem to be what this place is all about, so that's what I settle on. They're offered with either white or brown rice, and a choice of a single protein or a combination of two from a list of chicken, beef, pork, salmon, shrimp, or veggies. The slightly pricier plate option also includes a salad. Since the woman behind the counter recommends the chicken or the salmon ("people love our salmon!"), I ask if I can get both. Trouble is, those two, together, don't make up one of the pre-determined combos on the menu, so she has to have a little pow-wow with the kitchen staff to find out if it's doable. It is.
Maybe it was one too many trips to the food court as a kid, but I still can't shake the image of a syrupy sweet, frighteningly thick, and chemical-laden sauce when I think of teriyaki takeout. Luckily, that's not the case here. The sauce, the color of a golden maple syrup, passes the consistency test by slowly dripping off my fork and is just a touch sweet and smoky at the same time. The meat is cooked in the stuff before getting an extra drizzle on the plate atop rice, but there's a giant bottle of the housemade sauce on every table in case customers want to go overboard (and I do). It's as nice of a teriyaki sauce as you'll find with a Styrofoam-boxed meal, for sure.
The chicken is average, but the black bits of char from the grill mixed in with the meat give it an unpleasant, overly bitter taste and I don't come close to finishing it. The salmon is another story. It's not every day you get a perfectly cooked filet of fish like this one, let alone from an order-at-the-counter joint. The salmon is tender, left slightly rare in the center and gets a jolt of charcoal flavor (this time in the right way) with a few grill marks that look like they were painstakingly placed there by a food stylist, topped off with gleaming pieces of chopped scallion and a dusting of sesame seeds.
If, after reading the preceding description, you're thinking, "That sounds great, but I wish there was a way to throw cheese, a tortilla, and pico de gallo into the mix," well you're in luck. QBowl offers teriyaki burritos stuffed with all of the above. Clearly not wanting to pigeonhole itself, the eatery also sells burgers, fries, onion rings, egg rolls, and zucchini and mozzarella sticks.
But I'd probably just start with a salmon teriyaki bowl ?
Entrees: $3.25 - $9.50
— Lizbeth Scordo