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!