There’s a casual little restaurant called Umai Teriyaki that’s fast becoming a favorite of Montrose locals. It’s been open less than a year, and operators Chris and Grace Jung see a steady stream of shoppers, workers, fitness enthusiasts, moms, dads and kids walk through their doors and gobble up their fresh, healthy food.

It’s the kind of food you can feel good about eating every day, if you’re so inclined. The place is clean, the prices are decent, and the service is as fast as made-to-order food can be. If I were to open a restaurant, I’d do it the way Chris and Grace have — offer a limited menu of appealing items that you know you prepare well. If it’s good, people will keep coming back for it.

In Umai’s case, the menu is limited to bowls or plates featuring rice, veggies and a choice of four proteins — beef, chicken, salmon or ribs. There are a few simple salads as well, and of course, soft drinks. But that’s pretty much it.

What keeps people coming back is the freshness, the flavor and the sassy sauces. The vegetables, typically carrots, broccoli and cabbage, are cut fresh daily and steamed lightly. The chicken and beef are all-natural with no additives and little fat and are charbroiled for a smoky, tender flavor.

The salmon is thin and crispy with that same woodsy taste. My kids, normally fish-averse, couldn’t get enough of Umai’s salmon, especially slathered in their signature homemade teriyaki sauce. There’s also a delicious red sauce that has the same vinegary, spicy flavor of a good hot wings sauce. And they make a unique pickled jalapeno and celery relish.

Condiments can be taken to-go in tiny containers or brought right to the table. If you order a bowl ($3.89 to $5.79), the meat and vegetables come on a bed of white or brown rice. (Here again, my kids surprisingly preferred the healthier alternative. The brown rice ($1 extra) is sweet and flavorful and is a nice complement to all of the meats.

The plates ($6.39 to $7.79) include all of the above plus a small green salad and seasonal fruit. And only in the plate form can you order their ribs. Similar to Korean ribs, these thinly sliced coins of bone-in beef ribs are marinated in something sweet and topped with a tangy, spicy sauce. Some pieces had a little too much fat on them for my taste but were tender and delicious nonetheless.

The kids’ meals are a bargain, from $3.85 to $3.95. While smaller than the regular bowls, they include the same ingredients and are probably filling for kids up to 10 years old. Plus, they get a drink from the self-serve soda fountain.

One extra perk for adults is their free-flowing, freshly brewed iced tea. Umai Teriyaki’s cheerful shoe-box-shaped space has bright green walls and an overall clean feel. The walls have posters of their food on one side and vintage photographs of Montrose on the other — a strange combination but fun to look at.

It’s certainly not a place for a romantic dinner, but it’s great for a quick, delicious, healthy meal.

 LISA DUPUY is a Pilates instructor and health enthusiast. She can be reached at ldupuy@aol.com.

Copyright © 2019, Glendale News-Press
EDITION: California | U.S. & World