The Skinny: Battle of the Bulge at Tempe Marketplace

By Wynter Holden

After visiting two reasonably healthful restaurants at Tempe Marketplace, I thought it would be fun to see how they compare in a Battle of the Bulge.

In one corner of the ring, we have Kabuki Japanese Restaurant, weighing in at a hefty couple of brightly-lit rooms and a full bar. This California chain has spread to the Southwest, offering sushi, tempura, teriyaki meats and family-style combos served in a cute wooden boat. Aww...

Kabuki's worthy adversary is none other than...Salad Creations, a design-your-own salad franchise which has locations throughout the US and in Dublin, Ireland and Sao Paulo, Brazil. Guests choose from a variety of salad fixings, which the "salad chefs" toss in the selected dressing and serve either in the metal mixing bowl or as a tortilla wrap.

Which restaurant's healthful meal will reign supreme?

I opted for sharing two dishes at Kabuki, a teriyaki beef salad (because I'm on a low-carb, high-iron and protein kick lately) and a caterpillar roll my dining companion "Zee" chose. I ordered the salad sans dressing, so I figured I'd save lots of calories there, but uh-oh (insert ominous music here)... the meat arrived drowning in sickly-sweet teriyaki sauce. The high-cal croutons were easy to pick off, but there wasn't much I could do with the meat short of washing it off with my glass of water. And where the heck were the veggies? Last I count, croutons do NOT count.

"Help me(at), I'm drowning!"

I should've gone for the caterpillar roll (which includes eel, avocado, rice, cucumber and seaweed) instead, but avocado's a notoriously high-fat food. Plus, I'm just not a sushi girl. Cooked or no, seaweed and eel just aren't palatable to my very American taste buds. My conspiracy theory on the sushi fad is that it's like Starbucks: It's trendy, and everyone else likes it, so therefore it must taste good. HA!

How'd the challenger fare? Well, strike one because it's an order-at-the-counter place. That's normally a good thing, since you can customize your food better, but it also means you mentally think of it as fast-food -- which literally translates to "EAT NOW! FASTER!" But that was the only negative I found. Rather than get one of the pre-designed salads or wraps, I elected to choose my own ingredients from the couple of dozen containers behind the counter.

OMG. They have "sensible sizing" salads. Wow! Rather than pork up on a giant-ass bowl of greens filled with literally as many ingredients as you want, I got the sensible "Junior" version with less greens and only 4 ingredients (plus protein). Carrots, cukes, dried cranberries, hard-boiled egg and chicken. Uh. Yum!

Normally, here's where I would weigh pros and cons, tally up the scorecards and see who amassed the most points. But this one was a knockout -- sorry, Kabuki.

Victory, Salad Creations!

KEEP PHOENIX NEW TIMES FREE... Since we started Phoenix New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Phoenix, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Wynter Holden
Contact: Wynter Holden