Resident food critic reviews a local eaterye
October 26, 2017
Eric Kim gracefully moves around his open kitchen—chopping, grilling, saucing, plating and finishing. He dons an all-black chef’s uniform and a disciplined expression. He doesn’t sweat, scream or in any way lose his composure. After 20 years as a Japanese chef, the man respectfully and affectionately known as “Chef Eric” exudes what has made his restaurant and catering business so successful: passion and professionalism.
On Oct. 16, a guest and I were invited to a private tasting at Chef Eric’s restaurant, Greenfish Teriyaki Cafe. Located north of campus on Lafayette Street, Greenfish Teriyaki Cafe has been around since 2015— when it replaced former tenant Ed’s Gourmet.
The restaurant was established following the success of Kim’s catering business—Greenfish Catering—which has serviced high-profile weddings, corporate events and fundraisers around the Bay Area for over ten years.
During my tasting, I spoke at length with Mina Park, the event manager for Greenfish and Chef Eric’s right-hand woman.
“Our goal [with the restaurant] is to make authentic food in a short period of time,” Park said. “We make it easy to eat fast.”
Park said the restaurant has struggled to make its presence felt in Santa Clara but she maintains that Chef Eric is the real deal.
Thomas Ash, head of event sales and operations, agrees. Ash worked in tech for many years before being inspired by Chef Eric and his passion for food.
“Chef Eric doesn’t get anything delivered,” Ash said. “Anytime there’s a catering or anything, Chef Eric goes out and gets it. He does the shopping, he picks out the food.”
This attention to detail is what separates Chef Eric from many local chefs. He sees Greenfish as a traditional Japanese teriyaki shop that is “fast, fresh and healthy.”
“It’s a small menu. We try to get orders out in five minutes or less,” Kim said.
During my tasting, this was the case. The food came fast and the M.O. of Greenfish became clear: minimal options and maximum flavors.
The tasting began with a sampling of Chef Eric’s homemade teriyaki and sweet chili sauces. Park told me Chef Eric’s teriyaki sauce is slowcooked overnight for 10-12 hours, allowing the sweet concoction to slowly extract and intensify with flavor. Additionally—in an effort to make his sauce more healthy—Chef Eric forsakes adding sugars and sweeteners in favor of fruits and vegetables.
The sauce is perhaps the best teriyaki sauce I have ever had the pleasure of tasting. The consistency is rich and luscious, and the flavor is sweet, tangy and full-bodied. I definitely tasted the raisin-like sweetness of the unique sauce.
The sweet chili sauce—though not as complex and labor-intensive—is equally as memorable. Leaning more chili that sweet, the red-colored sauce is assertive, but not overwhelming.
Of course, both of these sauces reach their fullest potential when laid on top of Chef Eric’s teriyaki chicken—tender, juicy and charred to perfection. At Greenfish, the teriyaki chicken plate comes with sides of white rice, broccoli and coleslaw— all for $8.45.
Customers also have the option of ordering teriyaki beef ($9.45) or a combination of beef and chicken ($10.45). Vegetarians and vegans, on the other hand, might have to compromise their beliefs or seek Japanese food elsewhere.
Chef Eric also prepares chicken in the form of chicken katsu—lightly breaded and topped with a ketchupbased katsu sauce. Like the teriyaki chicken, the chicken katsu comes served with rice, broccoli and coleslaw.
For me, the chicken katsu rivaled Chef Eric’s chicken teriyaki. Though fried, the katsu was not overly greasy or heavy. It was intensely delicious.
The final dish I sampled was something called a teri-cheese beef sandwich—Eric’s Japanese-influenced take on a traditional Philly cheesesteak. The sandwich fills a soft roll of bread with sweet teriyaki beef, grilled mushrooms and onions, melty jack cheese and mayonnaise. The dish’s texture and flavor profile reminded me of a Chinese pork bao in that it boldly blended sweet, savory, saucy meat with a soft, doughy exterior.
The sandwich was rich, indulgent and highly-addicting. If you don’t mind extending your workout that day, the teri-cheese beef is infinitely recommendable.
Chef Eric, in an effort to extend his modest menu, told me he plans to add bento boxes in the near future. Park also said that the restaurant has discussed working with delivery services like UberEats in hopes of reaching a wider clientele.
Though the young Greenfish Teriyaki Cafe may not look like much with its unfinished decor, wooden tables and humble plastic chairs, the food is worth it.
Chef Eric and Co. are proven, passionate professionals with extensive experience and high hopes. They treated me with the utmost love and respect—as they seem to do with every customer that walks through the door.
As I left, I glanced back into the kitchen. Following my tasting and our chat, Chef Eric returned to doing what he does best—chopping, grilling, saucing, plating and finishing. That passion and professionalism isn’t going anywhere.
Contact Jimmy Flynn at jflynn@ scu.edu or call (408) 554-4852.