As I’ve mentioned previously, I’m not a major fan of food in general. As far as I’m concerned, food is for sustenance. On the whole, it’s not for entertainment. So for a restaurant to particularly impress me, it’s got to have a twist of some kind. Teppanyaki, on Chinatown’s George Street, has more than just a twist. Redefining the restaurant experience, by bringing the chef out of the kitchen and placing him right at the table.
“The word ‘Teppanyaki’,” The venue’s website explains, “is derived from ‘teppan’ which means ‘iron plate’ and ‘yaki’ which means ‘grilled’. On the battlefields of Ancient Japan, Samurai warriors would turn their body armour inside out and use this as the grill in which to cook their food.”
The grill on our long, ten-seater table was of a more modern, sleek design than your average samurai warrior’s. The table sat away from one wall so the Japanese chef/waiter could stand behind, facing us, and perform. It was like watching a culinary magician at work. With his chef-whites and branded headband, he was like a middle-aged Karate Kid demonstrating a lifetime of dedicated practice. He started the show by lighting oil in the embedded rectangular cooking surface, causing a collective gasp. From the food encased in ice at the side of the table, he would mix up egg fried rice with eastern precision and flair.
With the cooking surface then only containing eggshell halves, the chef picked one and placed it edge-down in the middle of the metal. “Man United?” He asked. “Rooney?” Taking the scraper for the fat, he then knocked the eggshell into the opening for waste at the edge of the surface. A football style cheer erupted.
He offered for one of our team to take the next penalty, placing another eggshell half on the touchline. The team member took the scraper, lined up the shot and bounced it off the edge of the opening, onto the carpet. The team gave a collective “ohhhhh”. A corner kick wasn’t allowed.
A feast of vegetables and chicken followed. The chef himself served us the moment each product was ready to eat. He even cooked steaks individually to our preference.
The food and the experience were undoubtedly excellent, but was it worth the money? We paid £35 a head. I was stuffed by the time I left, but some of our group said they could have eaten more. In contrast, Manchester’s South-American joint Bem Brasil offers an all-you-can-eat freshly-cooked meat buffet for £25 per person. I’d put BB’s taste range a notch above Teppanyaki’s.
If you’re really fired up (pun intended) about Japanese food, then by all means check it out. Whether the price is fair, is questionable.