If you are looking for a unique and entertaining dining experience, look no further than one of Toronto’s sizzling-hot and mouth-watering teppanyaki restaurants.
Skilled chefs wow their audiences with samurai-like knife skills around a sizzling grill.
Teppanyaki is a style of Japanese cuisine where the food is cooked right in front of guests on a sizzling-hot iron plate. Teppanyaki literally means “iron cooking”—teppan meaning iron plate and yaki meaning grilled, broiled or pan-fried. Most modern teppanyaki griddles are propane-heated, with a typical horseshoe place-setting around the grill for diners, from where they both take in the show and enjoy their meals.
Chefs in Japan have long cooked on an iron grill, but it wasn’t until the mid-1940s that a restaurant featuring the artful method of teppanyaki cooking popped up in Tokyo. The year was 1945 and the Japanese restaurant chain was Misono. The dazzling, showy method of cooking proved to be more popular with foreigners than with Japanese. When Hiroaki “Rocky” Aoki, a former Olympic wrestler and son of a Tokyo restaurateur, immigrated to New York in the 1960s and opened up Benihana of Tokyo just off Broadway, American diners could not get enough of the interactive dining experience. Patrons delighted in the theatrics of teppanyaki, as well as the novelty of watching their food being prepared right under their noses, being able to interact with the masterful chefs and having control over how their food was seasoned and cooked.
Specially trained teppanyaki chefs often use samurai-style tanto knives, slicing hot morsels of food flying through the air above the grill with razor-sharp blades. Seasoned teppanyaki chefs make it all look easy, slicing and dicing with graceful precision, artfully directing food around on sizzling-hot griddles and then heaping it onto plates to enjoy. Flipping, tossing and catching eggs using shirt pockets and spatulas is a popular trick, while a flaming onion volcano is one of the more famous teppanyaki routines. Chefs often receive extensive training and spend many hours working behind the scenes at a restaurant before being promoted to showing off their skills (and humour) to diners. Another bonus of the teppanyaki experience: the dazzling knife skills of the chefs are serious enough to break the ice for awkward business meetings, first dates and holiday socials, and are also a great idea for large family gatherings, as children are sure to be kept entertained.
Typical ingredients used in teppanyaki are beef, fish, shrimp, lobster, scallops, chicken and assorted vegetables. Often, ingredients are cooked using soybean oil, mirin (sweet rice wine) and garlic butter, and dipping sauces are served as an accompaniment to the main dish. Teppanyaki is a fresh and light-tasting meal, with ingredients only lightly seasoned to enhance the natural flavours of the quality meats and seafood. Diners often are given input as to how their meal is cooked (how seasoned, how well done they prefer their meats). Finally, teppanyaki meals are most often accompanied by miso soup, Japanese green salad and dipping sauces.
Since teppanyaki-style meals refer to the method of cooking, there are countless variations of ingredients. Various meats, seafood and vegetables are all worthy candidates for the teppanyaki table.
Thinly sliced vegetables are a component of all teppanyaki meals, as well as being offered as their own full meal option. Popular choices include broccoli, carrots, cabbage, mushrooms, onions, peppers and zucchini.
A specialty on many teppanyaki menus is the flaming volcano onion tower. Sliced onion rings are stacked and then oil and sometimes vodka are poured through the middle, lighting the tower on fire.
Healthful and delicious seafood teppanyaki entrées are very popular, and can feature anything from seared scallops to sizzling shrimp or prawns, salmon, tuna and lobster tails.
One of the most popular teppanyaki choices is premium cuts of beef, including ribeye, striploin and tenderloin. Whatever your preference, the beef is juicy and tender, perfect to dip into the accompanying sauces!
Teppanyaki-style fried rice is combined with a selection of veggies, egg and meat proteins, fried on the grill with butter, oil, white or black pepper and/or mirin, and served in steaming heaps to diners.
Yamato Japanese Restaurant
One of Toronto’s first teppanyaki restaurants, Yamato has been impressing diners with its teppanyaki tricks since 1983. The teppanyaki area is an open-concept room featuring dramatic lighting and a number of large, horseshoe-shaped teppanyaki tables. The most popular dish on the teppanyaki side of the restaurant (the other half of the restaurant is geared towards sushi) is the Imperial, featuring beef tenderloin, chicken, shrimp and an onion volcano. For diners watching their wallets, Yamato offers the same menu at lunch for a fraction of the dinner price.
Yamato Japanese Restaurant
24 Bellair St., Toronto | yamatorestaurant.ca | 416-927-0077 |
OPEN: Mon–Fri 11:30 am–3 pm, 5 pm–11 pm • Sat–Sun 12 pm–10 pm
The recently opened Hibachi steakhouse (the other two locations are in Burlington and Oakville) is a welcome addition to Toronto’s bustling King West strip. Menu highlights include generous portions of lobster tails, fiery garlic-butter shrimps, perfectly seared scallops and AAA striploin steak cooked on the teppanyaki grill over a generous mound of garlic butter. Chicken (with rice or noodles), salmon, tofu and veggie meals are also on the teppanyaki menu. For those diners craving raw fish, there are plenty of sushi options to choose from as well.
Hibachi Teppanyaki & Bar
550 Wellington St. W., Toronto | hibachisteakhouse.ca | 416-367-3888 |
OPEN: Mon–Wed 11:30 am–10 pm • Thurs–Sun 11:30 am–11 pm
Katsura’s teppanyaki menu offers guests à la carte or set menu options. Diners can feast on Wagyu beef and vegetables, lobster, sushi-grade tuna and salmon, chicken and vegetarian options—all cooked in front of your eyes by the masterful chef. Ginger-garlic and white-wine mustard soy sauces are served for dipping.
Katsura Japanese Restaurant
900 York Mills Rd., Toronto (at the Westin Prince Hotel) | www.katsurarestaurant. com | 416-444-2511 or 647-259-3230
OPEN: Mon 12 pm–2:30 pm, 5:30 pm– 9 pm • Tues–Fri 12 pm–2:30 pm, 5:30 pm–10 pm • Sat 5:30 pm–10 pm • Sun 5:30 pm–9 pm
More teppanyaki restaurant in town
A steakhouse that truly makes the teppanyaki cut
Prince Japanese Steakhouse offers traditional Japanese cuisine and masterful entertainment with its teppanyaki lunch and dinner shows. With an extensive menu, including its signature steaks, this restaurant provides quality food and a fun atmosphere.
Prince Japanese Steakhouse
5555 Eglinton Ave. W., Toronto | 416-695-2828
OPEN: Lunch: Mon–Fri 11:30 am–3 pm • Dinner: Sun–Thurs 5 pm–10 pm • Fri–Sat 5 pm–11 pm
Even more enjoyment with all-you-can-eat feasts
Not only does this restaurant offer an extensive AYCE menu for lunch and dinner, the main star of the show is the teppanyaki—Matsuda’s specialty! With features like the infamous onion volcano, these chefs put on a show that dazzles their diners.
Matsuda Japanese Cuisine
1300 Don Mills Rd. #2, North York | www.matsuda sushi.com | 416-391-9188 |
OPEN: Mon–Fri 11:30 am–3 pm, 4:30 pm–11:30 pm • Sat–Sun 11:30 am–11:30 pm
Expert grilling that’s renowned across North America
Founded by Hiroaki Aoki, Benihana Japanese Steakhouse invented the Americanized version of teppan-yaki cooking. Winner of WHERE magazine’s “Most Memorable Meal,” Benihana’s trained chefs are knife- juggling masters of entertainment.
100 Front St. W., Toronto (at the Fairmont Royal York) 416-860-5002 |
OPEN: Tues–Thurs 5:30 pm–9:30 pm • Fri–Sat 5:30 pm–10 pm