One of our earliest (and greatest) culinary discoveries was that putting almost anything we find in the fridge over rice makes it a complete meal. Harvest hodgepodge? Add the sauce of your choice and put it on top of some rice and it's perfect. A spare chicken and apple sausage or two? Both hearty and tasty with some fancy mustard. Tofu and the extra tub of salsa from last night's tacos? Disgusting in theory, delicious and filling in practice.
The genesis of this revelation was our early-ish experience with teriyaki bowls, picked up at lunchtime and enjoyed while sitting in the park skipping out on afternoon classes. We certainly don't endorse playing hooky for food-related reasons (take heed, you might end up like us), but oh, those were the days. In honor of our ridiculous nostalgia, and our love of anything in a bowl with rice, this week's food fight pits two westside chicken teriyaki hotspots against each other in culinary combat, Miyako vs. Sweet Home Grill.
Miyako is a cozy little Japanese restaurant in a nondescript mini-mall on Venice Boulevard in Culver City, and it looks like it has all the makings of an excellent chicken teriyaki bowl. The decor is nice and fairly simple, the menu is expansive but not expensive, and they offer plenty of combos and meals to try. When our teriyaki bowl arrived, expectations remained high. We were pleased to see that it was a good size, and came in a real bowl with plenty of veggies. However, this wave of positive feeling broke before too long. Though the chicken was pretty high quality (unfortunately a rarity in bowls around town), the teriyaki sauce was far too mild, to the point of blandness. We understand that teriyaki can get too sticky sweet or heavy sometimes, but Miyako went too far in the opposite direction. Our experience there was nice, and we left mostly full, but something was definitely missing.
Sweet Home Grill has a very different feeling to it. First off, it's not so much a restaurant as a stand on the corner of Santa Monica and Wellesly, facing the lovely Mom's Bar. There are perhaps 3 tables, all of which are outdoors, and you order from a window. When you pick up your food (also from said window) it appears in a styrofoam container accompanied by plastic utensils. Basically, it's a hole in the wall. Opening that styrofoam box, though, you are immediately transported away from the car exhaust of Santa Monica and the stink of nearby pizza mega-chains, to a world of beautifully charred chicken and rich, flavorful teriyaki sauce. The crispy texture and grilled taste superbly compliment the sweet thickness of the teriyaki; this is almost perfect. The portions are large and even though the veggies are a little nondescript, for under $6 it's hard to beat.
In the end, though Miyako has the advantage in both atmosphere and presentation, it cannot top Sweet Home Grill's actual food. If you want to sit down at a restaurant, or if it's pouring rain, Miyako is probably the better bet. However, for almost any other situation, Sweet Home Grill walks away with the teriyaki chicken bowl belt slung over its shoulder.
Sweet Home Grill: 12227 Santa Monica Blvd, Los Angeles. Open Mon-Sat 11 a.m. – 9 p.m.