Friday, August 26, 2016

Kotas Reviews Ruffles All Dressed Chips

Welcome to the BONUS ROUND! After such a disappointing finish to Chip Week, I remembered that I had one more chip to review...that I probably should have reviewed months ago when I was first introduced to them (thanks [REDACTED])! Let's close this out with a look at Ruffles All Dressed Chips.

Oh yah, time to find out what it's all aboot, eh?
It is a well known fact that chip companies provide flavor variations based on regional preferences, and Frito-Lay is no exception. The Ruffles All Dressed chips hail from our frozen neighbor to the North, Canada, where this flavor is incredibly popular, and only just now made its way South to the United States. The flavor is described by Frito-Lay thusly: "hard-to-describe, hard-to-put-down salty, savory, and sweet all at the same time". Which really doesn't describe it too well, but it sounds like an interesting combination. From the imagery on the bag, I gather it has something to do with barbecue sauce, paprika, and vinegar. Still, the bag is otherwise a bog standard Ruffles bag. Let's open it up!

Yeah, okay, color me whelmed.
Well, these look like nothing special. A light dusting of reddish flavor powder and that's it. The smell is delicious though, with a nice vinegar-y yet sweet scent that made me hungry. The taste is actually amazing. It's like a more savory, less sweet barbecue potato chip, with a lot more zing. It is a strong flavor, probably from the vinegar elements, but unlike normal barbecue flavored chips, which are usually way too sweet, this has that perfect balance of, dare I say it, Sweet, Savory, and Salty coupled with the solid crunch that Ruffles are known for. Om Nom Good is what these are. I did share the bag I purchased, but reluctantly. 

On the FACE Rating System, these get three smiley faces. They may be my new flavored chip of choice, dethroning my long beloved Cool Ranch Doritos as my number one snack chip go to. If you like barbecue chips, these are a must try. If you always wanted to like them, but found them too cloying, these are a must try. In fact, just go out and get them. If you don't like them, I will take them!

Kotas Reviews Hammond's Pigs N' Taters Chocolate Bar

Well, it's the end of Chip Week, but we're all out of Lay's flavors. So I suppose I'll just have to come up with something on theme. Well loyal readers, I found something that will intrigue you, amaze you, and quite possibly disgust you. Do you dare look into the Potatoy Abyss? Or will you flee into the night screaming, like so many before you? Okay, maybe I'm laying it on a bit thick. Let's take a peek at the Hammond's Pigs N' Taters Chocolate Bar.

F'gnly M'agwah Cthulthu F'atgn!
You read it here first folks, this is an actual candy bar with not only bacon, but potato chips as a primary ingredient. Of course, you are probably wondering "Who the hell is Hammond" and "Why is he selling this bizarre chocolate bar?" Well, Hammond's Candy is an old candy company, but these days mostly sells to the department store crowd. These candies find their way into variety stores, greeting card places, and other purveyors of miscellany. Mostly, they are one of the many makers of "off brand, yet trying to be fancy" chocolates that you see at the check out counters of random stores. Lest ye think this kind of stuff is the norm, they have a wide variety of chocolate bars that are not completely insane (though I will admit that their peanut butter and jelly sandwich bar is in the weird category). 

I am not particularly fond of the packaging here. I have always appreciated companies that use the "foil paper with cover paper" chocolate bar wrapping, because it is the standard I grew up with until they moved to that weirdly clingly "solely super thin plastic" stuff, but this design is very generic and boring. Sure, the pink color stands out a bit, but there's not even a cartoon pig or anything that makes the label jump out at you. I would have totally bypassed this in the store except for my spouse pointing out that it exists. But enough about that, let's get to the real crazy.

Into that black abyss from whence we all come from once I stare and tremble as my gaze slides onto that hideous PIGNESS that is this candy.
Maybe I should be less afraid of this candy than I originally thought. This is wholly underwhelming in almost all ways, though I am impressed at the bit of actual bacon that sticks out from the top right bit of the chocolate bar there. The scent is weirdly chemical for a chocolate bar, which was off putting, but I must give them credit for using actual bacon and potato chips in their chocolate. Sadly, the chocolate is where this whole thing falls down. The bacon bits are okay, adding a LOT of salt and a bit of smokiness to the taste. The chips mostly just add some crunch. The chocolate here is of, presumably, very low quality though, and that plasticy, chemical flavor of shitty chocolate just ruins the whole experience. It's not quite the grittastic nightmare of some of the really cheap "chocolate flavored" candy out there, but it's not a high bar to leap over, and this just barely does so. Yucktacular.

On the FACE Rating System, this gets 2 frownie faces. Weirdly, the bacon and chip portions were way better than the chocolate portion they were supposed to be enhancing. Just shows that you can't really put lipstick on a pig and call it a sow's purse...or something. Bypass this entirely, and instead think about what it COULD have been.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Kotas Reviews Lay's Indian Tikka Masala Chips

Chip Week marches onward, as we continue our journey with the Passport to Flavor Lay's promotion. First though, some corrections. It turns out there IS a Chinese flag on the Szechuan Chicken chip bag, but it blends in with the rest of the artwork so as to be much less noticeable than the other flags.  Still, we press ever forward to glory, and salted potato goodness. Today we review Lay's Indian Tikka Masala Chips.

Kettle Cooked for her pleasure.
So, as you may have guessed, I like to learn a little about the origins of the various flavors and foods I consume. Tikka Masala is probably the wildest tale yet. I assumed, like many people, that tikka masala (usually CHICKEN tikka masala) was a traditional Indian dish. Then you have no less a personage than Robin Cook, a British Foreign Secretary, declare it to be a national dish of  Great Britain! Holy Appropriation of Cuisine Batman! BUT...the plot gets thicker. The origins of the dish are "wildly varying", but the mostly likely explanation according to Wikipedia is that it originated in Indian restaurants in Glasgow to appeal to the tastes of the locals. There are plenty of specific stories about which restaurant, as well as other origin stories (it's a variant of butter chicken, developed in India to appeal to British palettes, it's a form of street food that evolved in Delhi, etc) that can be found here

Now that we've discussed that, I actually really like the artwork. It's still very monochromatic, but the various shades of orange have more contrast than those of the other bags, and the Indian flag stands out nicely from it. The bag is just cheerful, and that's very nice. Let's open it up and see what's inside. Hopefully potato chips.

Behold the majestic potato chip, in its natural lair, the bowl.
Well, that bag is full of delicious spicy scents. They certainly managed to capture the essence of what I think of when I think "tikka masala", which is interesting because "tikka" refers to the size of the chicken chunks and "masala" just means "spice mix". So I guess this is the masala portion of our experience. It's a good one. The taste is quite good. Lots of spice and flavor, with enough heat to keep it interesting, though not as hot as the Szechuan chicken chips. These are quite munchable actually, and I kind of wanted to eat the whole bag in one go. 

On the FACE Rating System, these get an easy 2 smiley faces. I could easily eat these any time of day, for any reason and not be unhappy. I don't always want a flavored chip, but when I do, this would be one of my top picks. Nice job, Frito-Lay! Definitely recommended if you like Indian Food, or just interesting spice combinations on your chips. Go out and get some today!

Well, that concludes Chip Week, I guess, even if it's a day early. We just don't have any more flavors of chips to explore...hrm. But flavored chips aren't the only things that could slot into Chip Week. Stay tuned for the thrilling finale!

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Kotas Reviews S'mores M&Ms

The last fading moments of summer are fast a weird timey wimey kind of way. I will have fond memories of summer, what with the blistering heat, the endless yard work, and the s'mores. Oh the s'mores! They've translated pretty well to cookie format, but will they make the leap to candy? Let's find out. Today we review S'mores M&Ms.

Crispy! Because, reasons! SINISTER REASONS.
I've not generally been a fan of the Crispy line of M&Ms. I don't know if they use a different chocolate or if the crispy part is made of fail, but every time I eat them I am disappointed in the taste. It always just seems off to me. Still, I don't think they are vile or anything, they just aren't really for me. My love of s'mores, however, has brought me back to give them a second try. The fact that my buddy [REDACTED] got me a free bag didn't hurt either! I would have reviewed these earlier, but due to a series of wacky mishaps the bag was lost and then found again. 

That said, hoo boy is this artwork all over the place. I kinda dig the stylized s'more of the word "s'more", but neon green and tan are two colors which really don't belong together. Also, why is Red the anthropomorphic character used here? Crispy is traditionally orange! Oh well, let's move on and see what these babies look like.

Well, this is sort of familiar.
These have almost exactly the same color scheme as the Coffee Nut M&Ms I reviewed a while back. And you know what? They taste a lot like them too. In fact, these remind me mostly of tiramisu rather than s'mores. I suppose there is the vague hint of something graham cracker-esque hiding in the aftertaste, but mostly? I get coffee. The crispy bits are their usual disappointment, but they don't detract too much from the experience. This one is very strange.

On the FACE Rating System, these get 0 faces. They aren't terrible, and they are sort of interesting, but they are almost but not quite exactly unlike s'mores in almost every area. If you are looking for a coffee flavored M&M that DOESN'T have nuts in it, this is your next stop on the path to flavor country. For everyone else, eat 'em or don't, your call. 

Kotas Reviews Lay's Greek Tzatziki Chips

It's Day 3 of Chip Week, and honestly, I'm getting a wee bit tired of eating potato chips. Nah, I'm just kidding, I love eating potato chips! Lay's in particular are very munchable, what with the whole "you can't just eat one" thing. I'm pretty sure they put some sort of addictive substance in them to make me crave them, probably "fat". What does the magical bag have in store for us today? Why, Tzatziki Chips!

Wavy with dignity.
So, this will be the second time a traditionally Greek food has been condensed into chip form by Frito-Lay, the first being the Gyro chips from last year. In this case, I think they did pretty well going with the Wavy variety and a flavor best suited to a dipping sauce than as a sandwich. The Greek flag is prominent along with other stereotypical Greek imagery. That tzatziki sauce bowl actually looks pretty good. Let's open it up!

Large and in charge.
I rather like the texture of Wavy chips, and they hold up a bit better in the bag too. The scent is pretty much like tzatziki sauce, though it has a bit of chemical under notes in the scent. The appearance is once again the very underwhelming "chip with green flecks" on it that is so dang popular this go around. Still, smells decent, looks like...well, chips. Let's dig in.

The flavor is almost exactly what you'd expect from a tzatziki flavored chip. What really astonishes me is that there is actually some cucumber flavor. Cucumber barely has flavor at all in the first place but to extract that minute bit and manage to generate flavor dust that has it as a distinct component is a marvel of snack food innovation. Frito-Lay certainly hit this one right on the nose, unlike some of their previous efforts. Bravo, chipgineers. Bravo. I think I'd prefer to just dip regular Wavy chips into tzatziki sauce, but when I'm feeling lazy (read: almost all the time) and just want that taste, you have filled a need I didn't know I had.

On the FACE Rating System, these get 1 smiley face. I wouldn't want to eat them all the time, but if I am in the mood for tzatziki sauce, these would fit right into that taste slot. They'd actually probably be really good mixed with the Gyro chips (or just an actual gyro, frankly), but they won't be for everyone. Give them a try! Unless you hate cucumber, then skip it.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Kotas Reviews Lay's Chinese Chicken Szechuan Chips

Chip Week continues, and so does our international tour de chip. One thing that Lay's has been trying more of is the meat flavored chip. We've seen bacon flavoring (for the bacon mac n' cheese chips), corned beef with the Reuben chips, and beef with the picanha chips. So why would we be surprised when they finally get around to the world's most popular meat, chicken? Well, we aren't. Today we look at Lay's Chinese Chicken Szechuan chips.

Nice font ya got there, I guess.
Well, I guess I shouldn't be surprised at the art work. I do love the dragon and pagoda silhouettes, but...why not have the Chinese flag on it like the Brazilian ones had their flag? Also, the box of presumably Szechuan style chicken isn't the artwork I would have chosen. I probably would have had it on a plate, and made it somewhat classy looking. This looks...well, it looks kinda meh. Anyway, Szechuan (or Sichuan) style cuisine is known for its use of hot spices and garlic, though pork is far and away a more traditional meat to use than chicken. Still, everyone loves chicken right? I predict these will be spicy. Let's have a gander!

Behold the glory! The glory of relatively uninteresting looking chips.
None of these chips so far is winning any sort of appearance awards. These are a bit nicer looking than the picanha chips, with not just green flecks but red flecks, but they also have a distinct brownish tinge that is more prevalent on some chips than on others, and usually indicates there will be a higher concentration of flavoring on those chips. The scent is vaguely spicy and garlic-y, but doesn't smell too much like chicken. Maybe a little. 

The taste comes through with the chicken all right, though it is more like the chicken flavoring from Chicken in a Biskit than actual chicken. The spices though, those I am impressed with. A nice garlic overtone, with a generous, but not overwhelming portion of peppery spiciness that lingers in the mouth and accents the chicken flavor well. These chips are pretty munchable, and they stay mostly on target with their supposed flavor. Good job, Frito-Lay, this is pretty good! I particularly appreciate a good dose of hot that is coupled with actual flavor, as opposed to "hot for hot's sake" like so many other "spicy" snack foods.

 On the FACE Rating System, these chips get one smiley face. I'm not always in the mood for a spicy chip, but when I am I would probably choose these over a more generic spicy chip. Definitely give them a try, particularly if you like other chicken flavored snacks. Much more on target than the picanha chips, though I suspect if those were marketed as chimichurri chips, they would disappoint less.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Kotas Reviews Kubo and the Two Strings

So, we're getting another movie review this summer season, because I've been trying really hard to foist my child off with let my in-laws spend more time with their grandchild. This means I get to see more movies, which is not a bad thing. This go around my spouse and I decided we wanted to see something a little different from the usual explod'em'up blockbuster fair. Plus, I basically had seen one preview like, six months ago and didn't know diddly about the film. Let's talk about Kubo and the Two Strings.

Picture Source:
Normally in my reviews I do a deep dive into the plot of the film, but some people have told me they would prefer NOT to have that sort of content, so I'll try to be more general about this tale of a young boy who goes on a quest to try and stop his grandfather the Moon King from stealing his other eye, accompanied by a talking monkey and a beetle samurai. Oh, and some paper. GOT THAT? Let's begin. 

This movie is, best I can tell, a story told through a unique animation style that blends computer and stop-motion animation into a seamless whole. The director's previous works do not include directing, but serving as an animator and/or producer on such films as Coraline, ParaNorman, and The Boxtrolls. It was my assumption that this story was an old Japanese folk tale or something that was Westernized a bit, since that is how it felt to me, but it turns out that this one is a completely original, which I was not expecting. 

The underlying themes of this film are wonder, discovery, sacrifice, loss and the importance of memory. There are a lot of interesting takes on the usual "Hero's Journey" and "Chosen One" motifs, though nothing too unfamiliar. Harry Potter it ain't, but then again it sort of is. Kubo has a lot of magic at his disposal, and he gets more powerful as the movie goes on, but that's not the focus of the story. The shamisen music that plays such an important role hits the right notes of wondrous and haunting, but also playful and teasing. The origami that is shown is excellent, though perhaps less interesting to true students of the art than to me. 

Yup. That's a wall of text up there.
Picture Source:
Many of the characters are a bit flat (no pun intended), but since they are background characters it doesn't seem out of place. Shout out to George Takai as having a small role and generally being awesome. The main characters of Kubo, Monkey, and Beetle each have distinct, obvious traits, and act in somewhat believable ways. Kubo is basically in shock after the initial encounter with his extended family, though he does shake it off conveniently quickly. 

One of the things I enjoyed most about the film was the sense of wonder that the scenery invoked. This film is just beautiful to look at and there are a lot of traveling scenes and other side bits that just revel in the medium of animation for the sake of moving well, if that makes any sense. However, as much wonder as there is, some of it can be a bit intense for smaller folk. I am glad I didn't take my kid to see it, as I don't think she could handle it at her age. Any kid who can sit through a Harry Potter film should be fine though. The giant skeleton bit is particularly scary, but I really loved that whole scene. 

This is not a perfect film, as I wish that the antagonists had a little more backstory than what is presented, though it is sufficient to understand the motivations. The Moon Sisters are creepy and effectively scary, and the Moon King is appropriately dismissive of our heroes, but I feel as though I'm missing some of their story as it fits into the larger world. Some of the humor goes for a cheap laugh rather than a more refined one, and thus seems a little out of place. The conclusion to the film is extremely bittersweet, but one could call it a happy ending, if a somber one. There may have been a manly tear or two shed. 

On the FACE Rating System, this film gets 3 smiley faces. It is not an exploration of joy and wonder, like many of the films I love, but it has those elements tempered with sadder parts that make the story complete. The animation is in my opinion quite excellent, and I do love the shamisen soundtrack. I do find it somewhat amusing that a chord (ha!) that runs through the whole thing is "the power of rock is awesome". This one is absolutely worth seeing, so get out there, and rock out with your bachi out.

Kotas Reviews Lay's Brazilian Picanha Potato Chips

Well, would you look at that. Another year has come around and it's time for Do Us A Flavor! Apparently this is going to be a yearly tradition with Lay's, though they are branding this one a "Passport to Flavor" because instead of voting for the flavor, you can collect points to win prizes or some such. Thank goodness, because summer is traditionally my slowest period for goofy foodstuffs. No longer must I endure the crushing ennui of choosing between the other two dozen flavors! My insatiable maw has never seen such novelty! Well, until next year anyway. Welcome to Chip Week, and Lay's Picanha Potato Chips.

So, is this a full Brazilian? Does this mean I don't have to shave now?
So, I know your first question: What is picanha? Well, according to this obscure website picanha is the most prized cut of beef in Brazil, and is known in North America as the "rump cover" or "coulotte". Sure sounds delicious to me! If you've ever been to a Brazilian style steak house, you would probably know this cut as the "house special". I've eaten at a few of these places and let me tell you, it is a pretty darn tasty cut of beef, especially if well seasoned. The other half of this equation is chimichurri sauce. Chimichurri sauce is a sauce for grilled meat, originating from Argentinian cuisine traditions, and the word is said to have Basque origins. In fact, the name means "a mixture of things in no particular order" when loosely translated. Sounds a lot like the blog you are reading. Anycrap, I like the packaging, with the little Brazilian flag and the green motif and all. Doesn't scream "BEEF" to me, but little does anymore. Let's see how they look.

In a soup bowl, because I'm not a savage.
Well, that was underwhelming. Once again we have the appearance of "more different sour cream and onion" chips. To be fair, it DOES match the picture on the front of the bag, but it's just so...uninspiring. The scent has some vaguely beefy overtones, but it's not super strong. There is a strong note of garlic though, which I rather like. The flavor is another disappointment. It's not bad, but once again we simply have "sour cream and onion++" chips. They taste like a slightly more garlic-y sour cream and onion chip, with an undertone of savory meatiness that may or may not be beef. I do like them better than regular sour cream and onion chips, since the third flavor mitigates the gross excesses of traditional Lay's Sour Cream and Onion chips, but I still am a bit disappointed. 

On the FACE Rating System, these get 0 faces. They taste pretty decent, but this is just another variant of sour cream and onion chips, which frankly we got last year. The big difference is that it replaces "mushroom undertone" with "meat undertone". If you are curious, or just want a better sour cream and onion chip, give these a whirl. They are decent tasting chips, they just aren't anything special. Though, I like them better than regular sour cream and onion chips, and would happily eat them at a party. I just wouldn't be able to tell you that they were "Brazilian Picanha" flavored.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Kotas Reviews A&W Root Beer Pop Tarts

Once in a great while, one comes upon an artifact from yesteryear. Seemingly lost in time, one finds that they appear to have stepped into an age which no longer exists but in the minds of people, and in fact may never have existed. There, one finds an A&W restaurant, and has a mug of root beer from their keg. I wish that is what had happened, but instead, I got Pop Tarts. Today we review A&W Root Beer Pop Tarts

Well, it being in a Pop Tart is new, for sure.
Named for Roy Allen and Frank Wright, A&W Root Beer has been a fixture in American Pop Culture since 1920. One of the first franchised restaurants in the United States to go national, today it is mostly known as a brand of root beer distributed by the Doctor Pepper Snapple Group. Occasionally one will find an A&W restaurant, usually on a secluded bit of highway, and it is often a surreal experience. When was the last time you had a frosted mug at a fast food place? Still, I do wonder at the pairing of root beer and Pop Tarts, of all things. Well, let's have a peek at 'em.

Double your...something something.
I'm not sure why there are sprinkles on this Pop Tart. They mostly serve to make it look dirty. The Pop Tart on the right also had way fewer sprinkles, again for unknown reasons. They smell vaguely like those weird gummy root beer candy things you see in "old timey" bulk candy stores. The crust is also brown, supposedly to resemble root beer. I'm sure it's fine.

Well, it was not fine. The goo inside looks like...well, it looks awful. It smells like chemicals and fake root beer flavoring, and the taste is like you freebased a root beer gummy, burnt and terribly chemical. The overall experience is like eating warm, mushy ooze on a plain cracker while somewhere someone is burning a root beer gummy and making you smell it. It is freakin' god AWFUL how bad this is. I ate a single Pop Tart. I threw away the second. The remaining Pop Tarts were left on a counter at work to snare the next unsuspecting victim in their unholy clutches. May God Have Mercy on my soul for this one. This is the kind of thing I would feed people I hated and wanted them to suffer. No.

On the FACE Rating System, this rates THREE frowny faces. Fuck this Pop Tart, fuck the box it came in, burn the factory it was made in to cleanse the world of its putrescence. Never Eat These. Ever. Don't even THINK about it, or They will get you. Who are They, you ask? Oh dear....THEY KNOW! It's too late for me, but maybe...RUN! Ia, Ia! Cthulthu F'gan! YOG SOTHOTH! IT STILL MOVES! 

Friday, August 12, 2016

Kotas Reviews Orange Crush Pop Tarts

Orange soda is one of those cultural touchstones you don't actually hear about much. Growing up, it was not the soda of choice but it was always there, lurking in the cabinet at the gas station, patiently waiting for you to get tired of the same old choices. There have been a lot of orange soda choices in the world, but only two have really made a pop cultural splash: Fanta (Don't ya wanna...have a Fanta) and Crush. One is associated with a singing group of women dressed in very bright colors. The other is associated with a defoliant and an alternative rock band. So, clearly, we have to combine this sentiment with Pop Tarts. Let's take a look at...Orange Crush Pop Tarts

I've got my spine. I've got my Orange Crush.
Sweet Monkey Jebus, LOOK AT THIS. My eyes are going to burst from this visual assault upon them. I don't even know where to begin with this insanity, but I guess at the top. It does a good job of keeping the branding front and center for both products, but that background is just so! The pastry itself is depicted as a whirling insanity of orange and white, presumably for any VOLS fans out there (Go Big Diabetic Orange!), and I do like the little spiral design. Just...maybe tone it down a bit. Anyway, will the actual product hold up?

Collar Me, Don't Collar Me. Comin' in Fast...Over Me.
Well, I suppose not every artistic design translates well to the Pop Tart canvas, now does it? The filling is an appropriately intense orange color, but the frosting pattern is very...smushed. It's almost as if the vast industrial machinery required for modern packaged pastry production isn't suited to subtle artistic flourishes. Imagine that! Still, we don't eat Pop Tarts for their looks, do we? NO. We eat them for the sugar rush that accompanies them! Let's eat!

Well, that was a raging disappointment. It's not bad. In fact, it's pretty decent. What it isn't is particularly good. The filling is both super sweet and super sour. It's like eating a sugar cube that's been wrapped with orange zest by itself and is mouth puckering in the contrast. However, eating it with the rest of pastry tones down the bitterness very nicely...maybe a bit too much, since the orange flavor is now much more muted. It's very strange, actually. You'd think this would be a sugary flavor explosion of orangishness in your mouth, but it's more like "sweet with some vague hints of orange". Like eating orange sherbet that's not particularly orange-y, or a creamsicle that has way too much vanilla. I had high hopes for these.

On the FACE Rating System, this gets 1 frowny face. It's not awful, and I am finishing the box, but I certainly won't get them again. This is yet another in a long line of foods that promise "crazy super flavor intensity" on the box, and utterly fail to live up to that promise. Eat them if you are offered them, because they are still Pop Tarts, but don't bother buying them. Go listen to R.E.M. and think of better foods instead. 

Friday, August 5, 2016

Kotas Reviews Mikata Japanese Grill

Well, the dog days of summer are upon us. For Pokemon Go players, they are probably more like the Pidgey days of summer, but the point still stands: It's damn hot out there, and it isn't cooling off any time soon. So, what is an intrepid young (ha!) reviewer to do to beat the heat? Why, go to a Hibachi Grill of course! Today we review Mikata Japanese Grill.

Angled because I'm either artistic or lazy. 
Mikata Japanese Grill is located in Oak Ridge, Tennessee in a little strip mall type place that you really wouldn't think has any restaurants in it, but in fact has more than one. It's a sort of hole in the wall style place, but the chairs are padded and comfy, the decor is...there, and the service, at least when I went there, is fast. This particular trip was with about a dozen co-workers in celebration of "August Birthdays", as is our tradition. I'd never been to this particular restaurant, and let's face it, they badgered me to review it. So here we are.

What we refer to as hibachi style cuisine in North America is actually teppanyaki, and originated in 1945 when an enterprising Japanese restaurant chain called Misono introduced the idea of cooking Western-influenced food on a Japanese teppan, or iron griddle. They also provided a little show with the meal, introducing the various food tricks, such as the ever popular onion slice volcano and the egg catch. They style was popular with visitors and most famously imported to the United States via the Benihana restaurant chain in 1964. Neat, eh? Let's get to the food.

Like all right thinking people I got the "chicken entree with fried rice" because I'm not a savage who gets steamed rice. I honestly had no idea what to expect, though I suspected it to be a form of chicken teriyaki. The menu also had small variety of sushi rolls available, but I was warned that the entree is a "metric ton of food", and avoided ordering too much. Or so I thought. Now, unlike what most people think of when they think teppanyaki, there wasn't a table we sat around to see the food cooked in an entertaining manner, but ya know what? That was fine. Let's get to the food.

Would you believe this was after I'd eaten about a quarter of the food?
Dear lord the portion sizes here are ENORMOUS. You get fried rice, chicken teriyaki, a heap of "standard teppanyaki vegetables", and some fried noodles, in case you didn't get enough carbs in your rice. What I should have done was divide the meal in half, save one half for later and had a decent meal. What I did instead was eat all of it, because it was very tasty, and then regret my life decisions. It was not the absolute finest food I have ever consumed at a teppanyaki grill, but it was far and away the best food I'd consumed at that price. $8 for an easy two meals worth of food that I had a hard time not eating? Yes please.

On the FACE Rating System, this gets 2 smiley faces. Tasty, inexpensive, and filling, you really can't ask much more of a teppanyaki restaurant. Sure, we didn't get the traditional show with our meal, but who cares? I ate two lunches in a row for $8! The Value is Real, and the Flavor is Good. If you are in the Oak Ridge area, do try and stop in. You won't regret it.