by Terrance Mc Arthur
Check out the Sunnyside Bicycles coupon at the end of this article.
Our roving food critic Terrance Mc Arthur continues his search for great food in Sanger and the surrounding communities. Check out more Great Food Search here!
A block away from Fresno County’s Central Library is my go-to lunch place, Kikku Japanese Food, 2336 Tulare Street. I’ve been going there for a long time, but there have been some major changes that have brought it to the top of the Great Food Search list.
The Downtown Fresno Partnership held an extreme makeover contest and Kikku was the winner of $25,000 worth of services and prizes. On a weekend in September, walls were painted, seating was changed, signs were installed, easy-to-read menu boards were added, and a restaurant was reborn.
For library people, Kikku has been close, convenient, and tasty for 14 years. Now, it’s becoming trendy. You’ll see lawyers, policemen, publishers, and more, all eager for good food and friendly service. In fact, so many people go to Kikku at lunchtime that calling ahead (559-233-8890) to order in the 11-to-12 hour is a good idea. From noon to 1:30 p.m., they are often too busy to answer the phone.
Part of the makeover contest was to create a signature dish and Andri and Sylvia Wahyudi came up with something great: number 19 on their new menu board, the Spicy Crispy Chicken ($7.99) with a brown sauce, dubbed the Fresno sauce. Succulent fowl with a thin layer of coating, it’s spicy in a “Howdy” way, not in an “I will now fry your tongue with a flamethrower” fashion. They make their own sauces, and the brown sauce has a savory flavor that melds the qualities of the dish.
People have tried to identify the ingredients with little success. My wife always orders #19, because she knows it will be good and satisfying…and it makes her tummy happy. That made writing this review difficult, because I couldn’t get her to order other dishes so I could describe a wider variety of fare. I had to try other menu offerings myself…not that I’m complaining.
Teriyaki Salmon ($10.50) is a healthy-sized slab over rice, with a rich taste. Not dry like some places offer, it soars over the taste buds, angelically bestowing blessings of yumminess. I was amazed, surprised, and pleased.
Kikku’s Teriyaki Beef ($7.75) is tri-tip, and the thin slices are still moist and flexible. Many of the dishes come with a cozy little salad of romaine lettuce, adorned with a stalk of chilled broccoli, cabbage, and a chunk of carrot, with a light Italianate dressing. Tasty.
Chicken Yakisoba ($7.75) is pan-fried noodles with cabbage and green onions. The chicken is the star of this show, tender and juicy, yet fully-cooked.
Since it’s a Japanese restaurant, there is sushi, but I haven’t tried it. (Am I chicken of the sea about eating raw fish? I don’t think so, but I do plan to do a Great Food Search about sushi…some day.).
I had seen udon noodles on the menu for a long time, but it took this article to get me to try it. The broth has a mild fish taste, even before you try it. Chicken Udon ($7.50…the prices are really good, here) has a bowlful of that typically-scrumptious chicken, veggies, and thick, squarish noodles that look like they came out of a Pla-Doh extruder, but they taste a lot better. It’s a spoon-and-fork dish, because a spoon won’t handle the king-size chicken pieces and the mammoth noodles, but you don’t want to miss a drop of the liquid. I ate my fill and took the leftovers home to my daughter, who still had almost too much for dinner.
I’ve mentioned the friendly service, but I want to tell you about Andri and Sylvia. They started Kikku (the Japanese word for chrysanthemum) when downtown Fresno wasn’t a food-seeking destination, and they stayed with it. They remember their customers, they explain the menu to the uninitiated, and Sylvia walks through the seating area, making sure that the customers are satisfied.
They are still amazed by the makeover. The all-white look has been livened with distressed-wood tables and window seating, and a warming orange has been added to the walls. Andri says it wakes him up, and it will brighten your spirits.
Here’s a word to the wise: order your dine-in lunch in a take-out container, because there’s a good chance you’ll have leftovers.
Have a good time!