Thomas Riley Marshall, once famously observed, "is a good five-cent cigar." If Marshall were alive and living in St. Louis today, he'd no doubt opine, "What this city needs is some decent chicken teriyaki."
But alas, it is nowhere to be found -- not at Seki, not at Nobu's, not at Wasabi -- no, I tell you, nowhere. I don't mean to over-egg the pudding, but indulge me this rant. You see, for years I've searched in vain for a proper platter of chicken teriyaki that could at least approximate that which I happily -- and frequently -- consumed in San Francisco and later, Seattle, where, I must report, the teriyaki is as delicious as it is ubiquitous.
I am no gastronome, but I do know my chicken teriyaki, that wondrous meal that Japanese cooks introduced to an appreciative world sometime in the seventeenth century. According to Shizuo Tsuji, author of Japanese Cooking: A Simple Art, teriyaki refers to a sweet sour-sauce based glaze that is applied in the final stages of grilling the chicken. Teri literally means "gloss" or "luster," and describes the sheen of the sauce that is poured over the broiled (yaki) meat.
In a nutshell, it is the sauce, and nothing more, that instills joyful life in a chicken teriyaki dish. The sauce, for it to work its magic, needs to be rich in sake, grated ginger, mirin (sweet rice wine), some sugar and soy sauce -- and liberally applied. This seeming inability to craft such a sauce is, in my humble estimation, the central reason our teriyaki has fallen short -- that and the fact that the chicken itself must be cooked in chunk-like form, not in long and overly-thick slabs..
That said, I now must ask a favor. Where, my friends, can one get some decent chicken teriyaki in this town?