Andagi tends to be hit or miss. The best I’ve ever had was a black sesame version in the Okinawan motherland last summer. The random kiosk we came across on International Street nailed their fried balls of goodness — perfectly crisp, not oily, fluffy on the inside. And of course, piping hot.
Here in the islands I’ve had some pretty stale, cold, dripping-with-grease andagi in my lifetime. So when a local place pops up whose claim to fame is their andagi, I’m a little wary.
But thanks to Teruya’s, I’ve found my new andagi hotspot.
Teruya’s used to be one of the counters in the old Shirokiya food court. Earlier this year they opened up a small shop on Pensacola next to Von’s Chicken. There are only four counter seats for dine-in and limited street parking. But it’s worth braving that for their andagi and bentos.
A word about that andagi: If you come close to closing, you probably won’t get your hands on any. Your best bets are to go early, or better yet, especially if you want your andagi freshly fried and crispy-hot, phone ahead and see if they can time a batch around your arrival. (Not kidding, this is what they said.)
I learned the hard way. Teruya’s andagi is made fresh throughout the day, but on my first visit near closing, they were sold out. I came back a second time just for the andagi.
The thing about andagi is that it must be eaten IMMEDIATELY. Trust me, it won’t taste as good even an hour later. So I sink my teeth into one seconds after purchasing it. From that first bite, I know it’s a winner.
The exterior is chewy and deep-fried to a golden crisp, but not greasy. The inside is piping hot and pillowy. The texture is perfect — slightly doughy and dense without being too heavy.
Sitting next to the andagi in the display case are bite-size sweet potato mochi. They don’t have a strong sweet potato flavor, but I love the chewy, spongy interior.
Mochi and andagi aside, Teruya’s is famous for their neatly packed bentos.
The most popular bento are the vegetable bento ($7.50) and the shrimp roll set ($6.95).
I’ve always loved the orderly, petite compartments of a bento. This vegetable bento is laid out in a perfect grid and is the perfect sampler if you’re craving something healthy. My favorites have to be the tofu patty and red bean mochi rice.
The shrimp roll set comes with chicken karaage, vegetable croquettes and two sides that vary, depending on the day. I love my deep-fried goodies, so the shrimp tempura roll is immensely satisfying from the first crunch. The karaage’s savory flavor is on point.
The shrimp tempura roll ($2.50) is also offered a la carte. It’s the most popular of all the rolls.
When it comes to the donburi, sukiyaki ($7.25) reigns as king. But many customers go for the garlic chicken ($7.25). It’s like plate lunch in bowl form.
I’m a sucker for garlic chicken and this one is moist, juicy and oh-so-tender. I just wish there were more of it.
I miss the convenience of having Teruya’s in the Shirokiya food court, but I’d go out of my way to this hole-in-the-wall for bentos and andagi. It satisfies the craving until I can get back to Okinawa, anyway.
1104 Pensacola St.
Weekdays 10 a.m.-3 p.m.