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Restaurant Reviews

Meet the Teriyaki Chicken Plate That’s Way Better Than Your Mall Food Court Memories

Carrollton’s Teriyaki 4 U puts a lot of work into a simple-seeming dish.
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Graphic by Andrea Chavez

Specialists make for an underrated category of restaurants. Pick one or two things, do them really well, and don’t try too much more. Sandwich Hag and Trompo might be Dallas’ premier specialists, but Carrollton’s Koreatown is the best neighborhood to visit if you want to try one thing, done right. You can go to Zzizim for savory pancakes, Hampyong for cold noodles, Oh K Dog for corn dogs, or Kurobuta for pork katsu.

Just to the north, Teriyaki 4 U opened this spring and put its specialty right in its name. There are several fast-casual teriyaki joints around Dallas and its suburbs, thanks to the influences of Asian and Hawaiian cultures. I haven’t tried them all, but I am not sure any are as good as this.

Teriyaki 4 U hits its namesake dish out of the park. The chicken thigh is treated with two different sauces, then chargrilled. To serve, it is sliced into thin strips, each still tender and soft. The rice is fluffy and flavorful. I wouldn’t say my side cup of spicy sauce was especially spicy, but it was a tangy complement to the meat. (It’s made with fine-ground Korean gochugaru, a red pepper product beloved for being big on flavors beyond mere fire.) In the summer heat, it’s also easy to enjoy the two recommended sides: cabbage slaw and cool, creamy macaroni salad.

It’s a perfect—and generous—platter you can enjoy in the dining room or as takeout. A boxed lunch from Teriyaki 4 U might be a great picnic. Or the perfect mall food. Owner Grace Koo, who also runs 9 Rabbits Bakery and Boba House, says she started Teriyaki 4 U because this was food she felt nostalgia for.

“I go to the mall just for chicken teriyaki sometimes,” Koo says. “I missed the food, and I was like, you know, I’m just going to make it myself.” With the help of chef partner Joshua Bonée, Koo devised a menu that focuses on West Coast and Hawaiian classics, done right. “I was perfectly fine with mall teriyaki, but of course Joshua wanted to go a little bit above.”

That same mantra—go a little bit above—informs the rest of the menu, too. The “macaroni” salad uses cavatappi pasta. Crab Rangoon, made in-house, boasts more filling than you’ll get at a buffet. The specialty grill used for the chicken, with wood chips piled on the bottom, offers another benefit, Koo says: “You can get a smokey outdoor barbecue flavor indoors.” (I can confirm that.)

Still, I have a bit of lingering suspicion that I stopped in for the wrong lunch item. Teriyaki 4 U’s second specialty is harder to find in Dallas, an indulgent Hawaiian classic: loco moco. Loco moco starts with fluffy rice. On top of that, add a thick ground beef patty, rich brown gravy, and a fried egg. Teriyaki 4 U makes its gravy for scratch, of course, but it also upgrades the meat: they use a beef-pork mix. The dish is great for athletes and hungover folks. Next time, I’m getting a loco moco.

There’s another thing about simple-seeming little specialist restaurants like Teriyaki 4 U. As a region gains critical mass of such small gems, its food culture can change. Delicious food made with integrity shouldn’t just be for people in a certain neighborhood, or of a certain income level. Delicious food should be democratic.

“With fast-casual, what I don’t see in Dallas that I see in other cities is that fast-casual can still be chef-driven,” Koo says. “I know that’s a hot word, a buzzword, but it’s true. We don’t have to cut corners in order to do things that are accessible for everybody.”

Author

Brian Reinhart

Brian Reinhart

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Brian Reinhart became D Magazine's dining critic in 2022 after six years of writing about restaurants for the Dallas Observer and the Dallas Morning News.

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