SECOND HELPINGS

McSushi and a Happy Yaki Soba Meal: Given the dreadful nutritional fare at most fast-food operations--oily fried chicken, greasy pizzas, fat-laden burritos and artery-clogging burgers--you'd assume there might be a niche in the health-conscious 90s for a reasonably priced, reasonably nutritious, quick-service meal. And what ethnic fare is better suited to such a concept than Japanese?

The folks behind Yoshi's, a chain of Japanese fast-food parlors, have put that concept into practice in a big way. If you're looking for an inexpensive nibble that doesn't require either a two-hour lunch break or a 10K run to work off the calories, Yoshi's is worth checking out. The Scottsdale location is a clean, spiffy place. It's reassuring to see workers diligently making the rounds, scrubbing off the dozen or so tables.

You order at the counter, where you can inspect a nutritional analysis of Yoshi's offerings before deciding what to have. After only the briefest wait, your dish materializes from the kitchen out back. The food is tasty and, I'm relieved to report, served in ample portions. Take the katsu bowl, which weighs in at 685 calories (the most caloric dish here), 17 grams of fat and $2.85. It's breaded and fried sliced chicken and shredded carrot on rice, topped by a fried egg.

If you're into low-fat nutrition, try the vegetable bowl. For a minuscule $1.95, you get rice covered with broccoli, cabbage, carrot and sesame seeds. It's not remotely fancy, and a little light on flavor, but you won't need a heart or wallet transplant, either. My favorite dish is the beef bowl, a vegetable dish enlivened with tender bits of teriyaki-glazed beef. Noodle fans will enjoy the yaki soba, pan-fried noodles with a few shredded veggies. Best of all, if, like me, you generally leave Japanese places just about as hungry as when you came in, Yoshi's has a remedy. For $1 more, you can get an extra-large portion of any dish. Surprisingly, Yoshi's also deals in sushi. Not surprisingly, for folks used to the real thing, it's not terribly interesting. It is, however, cheap beyond all imagination. Four California rolls filled with imitation crab and dotted with sesame seeds go for $1.50. The shrimp sushi is cooked, and it's the best of the indifferent lot. The tuna sushi is raw, and, frankly, it looked a little bit frightening. Inari sushi, pouches of deep-fried tofu stuffed with sweetened rice, is harmless. Yoshi's in Scottsdale is at 8989 East Via Linda, just east of Pima Road. It's open Monday through Saturday from 10:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m., and Sunday from noon to 8:30 p.m. Call 661-0306.

These Gods Must Be Crazy, Uh-Huh!: According to a report in the Toronto Globe and Mail, a group in southern Mexico believes Pepsi has magical powers. The sect, which practices a blend of Christianity and animism, scatters bottles among the holy artifacts in the local church. It says the soda pop's high carbonation indicates the presence of a higher power. No word if the Lord's Prayer has been altered to read, "Give us this day our daily Pepsi.

 
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