Long a fixture of the Quayside, Teri-Aki retains its right to a spot near the top of anybody's list of 'Sure Things' in Cambridge's dining scene. Its room-spanning wooden tables and uncluttered design appear capable of accommodating any number of birthday parties, society outings, last-minute drop-ins, even dates. Its menu has the right balance of variety and clarity, so one neither feels restricted nor fears that some dish or another
Tokyo expats longing for meals from the schooldays and weeknights of their childhoods will be perfectly happy
will stretch the kitchen's comfort zone. Distinguished for its range of Japanese canteen staples (soup noodles dishes, yakisoba [fried noodles], savoury rice bowls), Teri-Aki does some fine unconventional sushi as well, plus one truly brilliant dessert. Tokyo expats longing for meals from the schooldays and weeknights of their childhoods will be perfectly happy.
The best bets, perhaps, are the cooked dishes showcasing the blatantly addictive flavor combos that make Japan one of the world's best places for eat-and-run goodness: the sugary/rice- vinegary glaze covering skewered grilled chicken or beef; the soft, flaky breadcrumbs that make Japanese fried foods unusually crispy and airy.
Teri-Aki's karaage (soy-flavoured bits of chicken), presented solo or in a generously portioned bento meal, is a universal winner. Oyakodon, chicken-and-barely-cooked egg on rice (the name, somehow both macabre and adorable, translates to 'parent and child rice bow') that is ubiquitous comfort food in Japan, is tasty and satisfying. Ramen noodles could be a little more toothsome and dense, and the broth they are served in is a touch light. Still, the ingredients in an order of Cha Shu Ramen (fatty pork slices, pak choi, sprouts, crunchy toasted seaweed on top) are well-balanced, and the pork has decent flavor.
Those jonesing for fish should order from the menu of maki (rolled sushi). Many sushi bars phone in their maki for diners too timid to tackle straight-up raw fish, but Teri-Aki's are delicious and occasionally quite inventive. We loved the soft-shell crab maki, which came crusted with lovely briney flying fish roe; and the Futo Maki ('fat roll') - a couple inches in diameter, it combined crab stick, tamagoyaki (sweetened omelet), pickled radish, diced carrots, and shitake mushrooms in a beautiful array of colours - was a pleasure to look at and to eat. On the other end of the sushi spectrum, we enjoyed the Teri-Aki donburi , a medley of raw and cooked fish (salmon, squid, cooked prawn, a slice of that excellent omelet, and two types of roe, plus ginger and wasabi) atop a bowl of rice. The rice wasn't great - for Japanese rice, this was a little on the tough and glutinous side - but the fish was wonderfully fresh.
Incongruously enough, Teri-Aki has an absolute standout dessert. The Mochi Combo is a sensational-looking plate of confectionaries featuring mochi (the glutinous Japanese rice cake), including mochi balls covered in caramel sauce; a fabulous daifuku filled with sweetened red bean paste; and vanilla ice cream cased in a mochi covering, plus a large scoop of green-tea ice cream and abundant decorative whipped cream. Mochi neophytes won't get a more attractive introduction to the concept; mocha converts will be soaring.
Compliments are due to a new management team that has significantly raised the quality and efficiency of the front of house staff (service lapses have been a recurring grumbling point for some regulars in the past). From reception to exit, runners to hosts, the staff was cordial, gracious and attentive. Our mugs of tea were refilled promptly and often; our one unusual request was handled with efficiency and tact; and when we lingered over dessert, we never once felt pressured to scram. Mind you, this was a slowish Tuesday evening, and crowds tend to descend on weekends and summer evenings. But that's no less ground for recommendation. So, skip Wagamama; go here instead.