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Blue Fin Teriyaki dishes out flavorful Japanese cuisine at lightning-fast speed. Although its chow isn’t remarkable, the value Blue Fin offers is impressive.
From the road, Blue Fin Teriyaki appears slightly dilapidated — reasonably so, considering it has been serving downtown Phoenix since 1981.
The majority of the restaurant’s seating is outside underneath a blue awning. During busy hours, the dining room is packed and not a single seat is available on the patio. The afternoon sun shines powerfully into the little bistro.
The dining room and patio area were remarkably clean, despite some nearby construction. Soy sauce and other dry spices were readily available on a table just inside the front entrance. Blue Fin offers a variety of fruity beverages including SoBe and Aloha in a wide selection of flavors, as well as traditional soft drinks.
Traditional menus are available, but a blown-up menu covering the building’s north wall made it easy to view the items and their prices.
Blue Fin’s utensils are plastic, and the dishes are Styrofoam. Chopsticks are available for more-cultured diners.
All meals come in a bowl with rice, or with a separate plate with rice and a house salad. Portions are appropriate for lunch and are brought out of the kitchen within minutes of ordering.
Blue Fin’s dipping sauces saved the day for its $5.79 panko-breaded chicken bowl. The chicken was thin, narrowly sliced and pleasantly crunchy, but it lacked any remarkable flavor. Blue Fin’s chicken did not mesh well with the traditional Japanese dipping sauce, but it went well with the slightly thicker barbecue-like sauce. The real kicker was the sweet-and-sour sauce.
The thick, red sauce was a departure from typical Americanized sweet-and-sour sauces found at chains such as Panda Express. Upon first touching the tongue, the sauce is sweet and tangy, and a hint of spicy flavor clears the palate for the next delicious bite. The flavor did not overpower the subtle tones of the panko and was well balanced.
Blue Fin’s teriyaki chicken bowl, despite sharing elements of the name with its host bistro, lacked the same oomph as the sweet-and-sour sauce. The texture of the chicken, somewhat stringy, suggested that it was either cheap or not optimally fresh, but when the chicken is smothered in flavorful teriyaki sauce and sold at $4.79, it is hard to complain.
Even if Blue Fin decided to ditch its sweet-and-sour sauce recipe, it would still be worth returning for its Japanese chicken curry bowl. The chicken was identical in texture to the teriyaki chicken, but the mild curry sauce compensated for the imperfection. The carrots were soft, which was unfortunate because this dish desperately needed crunch. Underneath, curry sauce mixed with the rice for a better flavor and texture than the teriyaki chicken’s excess sauce.
Though the traditional Japanese sauce did not go well with the panko-crusted chicken, it complemented Blue Fin’s pork gyoza well. But the sauce was not necessary — the dumpling was crunchy on the outside and packed with creamy flavor on the inside.
Blue Fin Teriyaki may not be the best eatery in the downtown area, but its food packs a kung-fu punch of flavor, even if only because of the supplementary sauces. Blue Fin is good for a flavorful, inexpensive lunch. Just remember to ask for the sweet-and-sour sauce.
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