You know the story about Pavlov and his dog? If I remember right, it went something like this. This guy Pavlov had a dog, and every time a bell rang, the dog got its wings. Wait, that’s not it.
This guy Pavlov had a dog, and every time he rang the bell, he’d give the dog a donut, or possibly a slice of The Edge pizza from Pizza Hut. After a while, he could just ring the bell, and the dog would start drooling. I’m not sure what the experiment was, since dogs drool all the time. Anyway, Pavlov also found that if he only *sometimes* gave the dog a donut after ringing the bell, this would make the dog drool even more. “Inconsistent reinforcement,” he called it. (“He” meaning Pavlov, not the dog, who called it “bullshit.”)
Naturally, I don’t care about dogs who eat donuts, unless they eat my donuts. The preceding was an allegory. The dog is me, and Pavlov is Nasai Teriyaki, a restaurant I’ve been to dozens of times, but not in the last couple of years. I decided to have lunch there today, though, because I was in the neighborhood and wanted something quick.
The thing about Nasai is that it is extraordinarily inconsistent. There are a lot of things on the menu, but what everyone gets is the special, which is chicken teriyaki and potstickers for $5. Several years ago some guy drew an anime-style ad for the special on their whiteboard, and it’s been worn down to a shadow of its former self, but it was still there today. Actually, I didn’t get the special, because Nasai’s potstickers are deep-fried and reliably bad.
The chicken, though, is sometimes the perfect gooey, juicy teriyaki you’re after, and sometimes a gristly mess, sauced by a sauce-miser (there is extra teriyaki sauce to be had at a sauce station, but somehow it’s different from the stuff that is served on the chicken). You also get a mound of rice (equally variable–sometimes it’s overcooked in the horrible clingy way that Japanese short-grain rice gets when overcooked) and some perfunctory iceberg salad.
I realize I’m not making Nasai sound very good, but when they’re on, it’s perfect student food, which is why I went there at least once a week when I was an employee and then a student at the University of Washington.
Today I got lucky. The chicken (grilled boneless thigh) was juicy and the sauce was free-flowing. The service was slow.
4305 University Way NE
Seattle WA 98105