In other parts of the world, it’s more common to find restaurants that focus on just one item. We’ve got a few versions in the US, most notably pizza and burger places, but even those often try to capture more customers by diversifying their menus. But whether it’s a pani puri stand in Delhi or a chicken rice shop in Singapore, the unifying factor is that the single item better be damn near perfect to attract a following. Falls Church has a new entry in this genre.
Kariju Japanese Fried Chicken is a karaage-ya-san, an eatery specializing in marinated, then fried chicken. And like its forebears in Japan, the small team in Falls Church is very good at what it does. The karaage with which I’m familiar is crafted from small chunks of thigh or breast, but Kariju also offers drumsticks and wings.
The counter staffer told me that the bento box is Kariju’s signature item. The segmented plastic box is filled with an ample portion of chicken, but also fries, sushi rice, and a gingery dressed salad. For $12, it also includes a bottle of water. I agree with the staffer that it’s the way to go.
That’s in no small part due to the chicken itself. Arriving hot from the fryer, the fatty thigh meat oozes charisma but not grease. That’s thanks to a soy-based marinade also heavy on garlic and onion. The crisp jacket is just thick enough to contain the tender, juicy meat. The other elements of the box are all prepared optimally, too, but allow the chicken to shine.
Another element that aids in this goal is a pair of homemade sauces. A lightly spicy barbecue-style dip is tangy and savory, but I was even more attracted to the other, sweeter one, with its thin ribbons of orange peel.
No, Kariju can’t boast of a diverse menu. But with chicken like that, it doesn’t need to.
7810 Lee Hwy., Falls Church
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