This is going to seem like an odd thing to review but hey, it’s what I care about the most right now.

For decades I’ve been going to Destiny Mall, previously Carousel Mall (which I still call it on occasion), and many times I head to the food court to eat. Now there are a lot of restaurant choices, yet the food court is where you’re going to get your food the fastest. When you’re hungry, you don’t want to sit around for a long period of time waiting for your food.

IMG_20150306_183306Even though there are a lot of choices, for me nothing touched the bourbon chicken at Cajun Cafe. I’m not sure if this is only a local restaurant or part of a chain of restaurants, but I tend to believe it’s local. If you do a search you’ll find lots of restaurants around the country with the same name, but once you see the images none of the food choices look the same. They had a second restaurant at Great Northern for a short period of time but it’s gone now.

The chicken is non-breaded and always very tender, and they give you a lot of it. I think it’s still fried, and it’s in a sweet sauce that I love. If you wish you can get it with vegetables and rice, or one or the other, or just the chicken. There’s something about the sauce that compels me to want more of it even hours after I’ve eaten it. There’s never been another competitor… until recently.

Their competition… Koto Syracuse, which is only a few spots down. It’s actually a full Japanese steakhouse where you can either sit where they cook the food in front of you or get a table and let them bring it to you. I’ve enjoyed their salmon teriyaki for years, although truthfully I liked it better when they had their standalone location on Erie Boulevard. That’s been sold off to someone else and the flavor is different, so it’s either Koto if I want an open experience or Ichiban if I want more of a home feeling; I can’t explain that one any better.

Anyway, I had the occasion to go into the food court a couple of weeks ago with the intention of getting some bourbon chicken, when I smelled something pretty wonderful. I looked and noticed that at the takeout menu, where Koto always sold sushi, they had added a hibachi grill and were cooking up, well, hibachi type meals. They offer shrimp, beef and a few other things, but I decided on the chicken. Wow! When you get hibachi meals, they mix the meat with teriyaki sauce; I love teriyaki!

Instead of just talking about it in general I thought I’d do a comparison of its hibachi chicken meal against Cajun Cafe’s bourbon chicken meal.

IMG_20150609_124043First off, the presentation of each is different. If you’re eating in, Cajun Cafe gives you kind of a tray of food. They do this so your selection of food choices is separate; probably helps them figure out how much to dole out of each item. Koto gives you a styrofoam take out container, where the chicken sits on top of all the other choices… which you can probably ask not to have, but if you don’t you’re getting whatever they give you.

Second, the amount of chicken you get each place is probably the same. I don’t know cuts of meat all that well, but it almost seems like Cajun Cafe is giving you dark meat while Koto is giving you white meat. Frankly, dark meat is more tender but the way they cook it at Koto makes it come out pretty tender also; that’s a push.

Third, Koto actually cooks the food in front of you, which means it can take up to 5 minutes to get it if there are a lot of people waiting for their meals. Cajun Cafe cooks theirs in the back, so you’re going to have your food in less than a minute. That makes a difference in warmth of food since Koto’s would be hotter, but truthfully I think it’s close to a push there. How quickly you want your food might mean more if you don’t have a lot of time to wait or if you’re really hungry.

Fourth, the vegetables. In general I’m not a vegetable guy, so I never get the vegetables at Cajun Cafe. As I said, you can probably ask Koto not to put the vegetables in there but they’re not bad. I only have to pick out the zucchini, which I refuse to eat, so it’s not all that bad. They’re also crisp; the couple of times I’ve tasted my wife’s vegetables from the Cafe they’re kind of limp, probably because they’re sitting out and being steamed constantly.

Fifth, the rice. I’ve never liked the rice at Cajun Cafe. It doesn’t matter whether it’s their rice and beans or their version of jambalaya; just not my cup of tea. However, I love fried rice, Chinese or Japanese, and you’re offered white, brown or fried rice at Koto. I got the fried rice and it was wonderful; I knew it would be. That’s a total plus for Koto.

Sixth, everything else. The cost of the full meals are pretty comparable. It seems like you get way more food from Koto, as the few times I’ve had their meal I’ve left very full. Then again, I’m not getting the rice from Koto. There are a lot of other choices at Cajun Cafe than you’re not going to get at Koto when it comes to chicken and vegetable choices, whereas Koto offers more meat and rice options. Koto also offers the idea that their foods are fresher because you see them cooking it in front of you.

I’m calling it a tie because neither is going to make me forget the other. Your choice might be different based on what I’ve shared here, and if you have the opportunity to try both of these options I hope you share your thoughts on it. All I know is that I’m finally glad there’s a place in the food court that actually has tasty fried rice; my dreams have been answered!
 

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