Sampling the menu at SushiYa


East Lansing is awash with Japanese restaurants, but none have been able to draw my continued patronage more than SushiYa. Located on the same strip of Grand River Avenue as the Peanut Barrel, it has a similar outdoor patio, minus the string lights and fence, providing the perfect place to people-watch during the warm months. It also offers my favorite bento box in the area, and at a modest price to boot.

When you order the bento box — or any entree, for that matter — your server will ask if you’d like soup and salad, to which I always respond with an enthusiastic “yes.” I typically swap my salad with my boyfriend for his helping of non-vegan miso soup, and the warm, salty broth always primes my stomach perfectly for the main course to come.

I love bento boxes because they provide the ability to sample a variety of dishes without having to pay for — or stomach — full portions of each. SushiYa also offers bulgogi, salmon teriyaki and vegetarian boxes, but I always spring for the chicken teriyaki option. Wonderfully tender and juicy, with a generous coating of sweet glaze, the chicken is the best part of the box, and the fact that it’s grilled provides a nice contrast to fried components. I also love the thin, sauteed onions and tender broccoli that adorn the chicken, supplying an extra pop of flavor.

My second favorite part of the box is the fruit, which on my last visit included peeled orange slices and two types of grapes. There’s a lot of saltiness throughout the box, especially with the fried items, but the sweet fruit offers both a respite and an opportunity to cleanse your palate while making your way from dish to dish. The slices of pickled yuzu perform a similar function, though they’re not as fresh and bright.

The aforementioned fried items — a spring roll and a selection of tempura veggies and shrimp — provide the box with a much-needed dose of crunchiness while not being noticeably greasy. I’m always impressed with the amount of breading the restaurant can get on the tempura, as well as how light it still manages to be.

Then there’s the rice, which is sticky enough that it’s able to be eaten fairly easily with chopsticks. I like to scoop it up with helpings of chicken so it gets coated in the teriyaki glaze, but it’s also satisfying on its own with a drizzle of soy sauce.

For those who are new to Japanese cusine, or even just to SushiYa, a bento box is an excellent place to start. Just be sure to finish off the tempura and spring roll before asking for a takeout box, because I’ve learned from experience that they’ll  become soggy when you try to warm them up. They’ll still taste great, though!



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