My dad got me hooked on Yoshinoya’s Beef Bowls when I was a kid in SoCal. We didn’t have any near our house, but some nights, my dad would come home from work with Beef Bowls in hand. I remember loving them so much that I would call him at work and beg him to bring some home for dinner.
In college, the Filipino club at CSUN was notorious for taking stacks of student newspapers and stripping them of every last Yoshinoya 2-for-1 coupon, and a steady stream of hungry Filipino Matadors would head down Reseda Blvd to get their Beef Bowl fix between classes.
These days, Yoshinoya isn’t on my radar, mainly because they’re few and far between in the Bay Area, but when we ended up here the other night, I was a happy man. The Beef Bowl hasn’t changed a bit, it’s exactly the way I remember them, especially the rice that has soaked up some of the meat juices and is complemented with a bit of red pickled ginger. It’s a flavor that’s unique to Yoshinoya, and i love it.
To be honest, though, I wouldn’t get anything else at Yoshinoya except for the Beef Bowls. The menu is now unnecessarily complicated by combo meals, bento boxes, and desserts sealed in plastic. The chicken is decent, but the veggies have been gross for as long as I can remember. The combo meals come with a choice of salad (green, mac or potato) or dessert (cheesecake, chocolate, strawberry shortcake, flan….WTF?). My wife wanted to try a piece of shrimp tempura, just to see what they do with it, and it had been refried and smelled of old oil.
Honestly, this place deserves 3 stars…so why the high rating? Sometimes the reasons why you like a place have more to do with the memories than the actual food. A Beef Bowl will always remind me of a childhood epiphany that pointed me in the direction of Yoshinoya’s fatty, thinly sliced steamed beef served over rice in a styrofoam bowl. There’s a special joy that I get when eating a Beef Bowl that you might not relate to if you’ve just discovered Yoshinoya (like my wife). But even she concedes that the Beef Bowls are worth a trip back.