Second Helpings

Tokyoya Bowl & Bowl

Tokyoya Bowl & Bowl had every chance to be a restaurant I would love. It's a small, stand-alone operation about the size and shape of a Taco Bell, stuck back in the corner of a commercial plot, and offering rice bowls and udon, gyoza, yakitori and tonkatsu -- the classic lineup of Friday-night sarariman fast food. And not only is it doing unapologetic Japanese fast food, it's doing it with a drive-thru -- and I will always have a weakness for joints that can provide me with barbecue, falafel, chili dogs or futomaki without my ever having to leave my car. Tokyoya is also ridiculously cheap, open every day and every night, staffed by a Japanese crew and often busier than you'd expect such a place to be -- full of high-school kids at lunch, businessmen in the evening and a mixed bag of weirdos after the sun goes down.

Unfortunately, the food is abysmal. So bad that the first two times I ate here, I figured there had to have been some kind of awful mistake, because I couldn't imagine how any restaurant could deliberately serve food so terrible: lukewarm udon broth packed with a nest of slimy, thick noodles topped with chewy, fatty, dark-meat chicken; tonkatsu with the same tensile strength as a boxer's mouthguard; beef bowls with rice that made me think of nothing so much as the fare at a Japanese prison. But the purposefulness of this dreck was borne out over a couple more visits I made, each time thinking there was no way the food could possibly be as bad as it had been before.

It was: equally terrible on each visit, and made to such an exacting degree of similar terribleness that I was finally forced to believe this was actually the way the kitchen intended to cook. On my last stop, I went for the beef bowl and, as always, was served a meager portion of rice that managed to be both sticky and wet at the same time, topped with a mound of mangled beef that smelled like feet and was composed mostly of fat and connective tissue. It was so bad that even though I really wanted a beef bowl and would've been willing to eat almost anything even vaguely resembling one, I tossed the thing out after just one bite, then spat out the bite that was in my mouth, cursed my own curiosity and gullibility, and went home and made myself a bowl of Nong Shim ramen instead.

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Jason Sheehan
Contact: Jason Sheehan