Amy Richardson – who started her wonderful Pretty Pretty Yum Yum blog while living in Osaka – is one of the most Japanese-savvy people I know. So when she tipped Teriyaki Boy in Balmain as her fave place to get her tempura/agedashi/sashimi fix, I knew I had to try it out.
And yes, this cosy eatery pretty much does your standard menu – Agedashi Tofu ($10), Nasi Dengaku ($10), various dinner box sets, etc – but what makes it note-worthy are the small-scale, endearing touches, such as the cute paper table settings and the sweetly eccentric way the restaurant publicises its complementary starter: on the blackboard, it simply says: Fresh Cabbage with Sesame Oil $0. (Deep-fried Soba also recently flaunted such a price-tag.)
I have a soft spot, too, for the smart spins on certain dishes, such as the Wasabi Caesar Salad ($10), which comes with a generous zig-zag of peppery mayo and the crunch of deep-fried tempura crisps. Or when staff members remember you’re vegetarian, even though you only mentioned it once, weeks ago when you booked, and, unprompted, they go to fine lengths to make sure your agedashi tofu isn’t snowed under bonito flakes or bathed in some fishy dashi. And, when you ask for the bill, the waiter actually draws a big anime-style grinning cat that says ‘Thank you!’ on the back of the total!
Sure, the Nasi Dengaku is oversauced, and Teriyaki Boy doesn’t stand out on every single count, but it makes a warm and likeable impression. If there was a restaurant exchange program, I’d gladly trade it for one of my locals.
Teriyaki Boy, 481 Darling Street, Balmain NSW (02) 9555 6510.