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Last week, on the way to pick up my daughter, I saw a sign for a teriyaki and noodle house in a strip mall not a mile away from her school. It was late enough that if we went straight home, we’d get stuck in traffic. So instead we stopped for dinner at Teri Café.

Inside, I was surprised by the Hawaiian themed décor, complete with photos of surfboards aplenty and at least one table covered by a thatched roof. Reggae played overhead. I almost walked out, thinking we’d accidentally entered the wrong establishment. It was the right place, though, and I'm glad we stayed. The vibe was comfortable, casual, and quiet.

We ordered at the counter without really having to look at the menu. Sapporo draft ($2) and the ngiri combo ($9.95) for me.

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A mini teriyaki chicken bowl ($3.75) for the little one, plus a can of Strawberry Guava juice ($1), which would come in handy later.

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My combo came with Hamachi, salmon, shrimp, and tuna ngiri, and a California roll. The fish was super fresh, and the Cali roll came the way I like it, with the crabmeat mixed with mayo, rather than whole and accompanied with cucumber.

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And the teriyaki dish came the way my daughter likes it, the parts and pieces easy to separate from each other. She likes each bite to be the one thing it’s supposed to be: either rice or vegetables or chicken.

My daughter often asks for a piece of my California roll, which she takes small bites of until it falls apart, and then hands back to me. On this evening, I offered a bite of my tuna ngiri. She made a face at it. I told her I’d pour more juice from the can into her cup of ice if she gave it a try.

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It worked. She took a bite, gagged, swallowed it anyway, and then said, “Mmm. Yeah.” When I offered more, she politely turned me down, “No, thank you, Mommy.”

I commended her for trying something new. She smiled at me and ate her whole piece of broccoli, stalk and all.

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