These restaurants fuse food and fun with chefs that dazzle using their flashy cooking style.
Even if you’ve never heard the word teppanyaki, you likely know what it is. This charismatic Japanese cooking style shows up time and again in rom-coms and TV shows. If you’ve ever seen a chef deftly slicing and dicing meat and veggies over a hot grill, their skill drawing oohs and aahs from captivated diners, you’ve witnessed the culinary magic that is teppanyaki grilling.
Teppanyaki comes from the Japanese teppan, or iron plate, and yaki, to fry or grill, so the most basic definition of teppanyaki means to cook on an iron grill. But today teppanyaki has evolved into something more. Modern teppanyaki is often turned into a unique culinary experience, and the food is the star of the show. In the West, teppanyaki has become synonymous with chefs rapidly slicing, flipping and serving meat and vegetables among plumes of fire, delighting their audiences with not only their show manship and charm, but the delectable creations that are made from their skillful handling of the grill.
Picture ©City Foodsters (www.flickr.com)
At a teppanyaki steakhouse you might see a chef flicking food with astonishing precision onto diners’ plates, flipping a bowl in the air and catching it in his hat, or balancing a tower of eggs without breaking a single one. One of the biggest crowd-pleasers is the volcano—a cone of sliced onion rings filled with oil that shoots a plume of flame when lit.
Almost anything tastes great hot o the teppangrill, but teppanyaki in Japan and teppanyaki in Western countries have a few variations. In the West, restaurants tend to favour meats like beef and chicken, seafood such as shrimp or lobster, and vegetables. In Japan, chefs will often throw noodles on the grill as well, with yakisoba (fried noodles) being a common side dish. You’re also more than likely to encounter okonomiyaki, a meat and cabbage pancake fried up and doused in a sweet and savoury sauce.
Okonomiyaki is popular at teppanyaki steakhouses in Japan. It’s made of cabbage, egg and our mixed with seafood and/or pork and then grilled as a savoury pancake. If you can find a teppanyaki steakhouse that serves okonomiyaki, it’s definitely worth a try.
As with much of Japanese cuisine, teppanyaki chefs tend to keep the flavours light and natural. Ingredients are typically fried in soybean oil or animal fat. However, diners can often choose from a variety of sauces to dip in. Teppanyaki steak is frequently seasoned with salt, pepper, grated wasabi or crisp fried garlic chips. Only the choicest cuts of meat and freshest seafood and vegetables make it onto the grill, and as such teppanyaki has something of a reputation for fine dining. Infact, many restaurants will serve top-quality Wagyu beef, including Kobe beef.
A restaurant chain in Kobe called Misono is credited with making teppanyaki famous, all the way back in 1945. Ironically, in the beginning teppanyaki was more popular with foreigners than it was with the locals. The skill and showmanship of teppanyaki chefs was a huge draw for tourists. But these days, Japanese teppanyaki chefs are known to dazzle locals and Westerners alike.
For dinner and a show all at once, head to your closest teppanyaki steakhouse.
Teppan Grill Cuisine
Almost anything tastes great off the teppan grill. Meat, veggies and even rice receive the teppan treatment,cooked up to perfection.
The star of the grill, teppanyaki steak is juicy, tender and full of rich umami flavour. Because of the top-quality cuts of meat, it’s great on itsown, but is also commonly served with garlic chips, mustard or rock salt.
Shrimp, lobster and scallops are teppanyaki staples. If you’re lucky your teppanyaki chef might just make your shrimp dance. Seafood is popular in both Western and Japanese teppanyaki.
Delicious grilled zucchini and onion ring volcanoes take the stage at Western teppanyaki restaurants, while beansprouts and cabbage are more common in Japan. But almost any vegetable ist for the grill.
Teppanyaki chefs chop up egg, onion and meat into a tasty fried rice right in front of your eyes. The beauty of teppanyaki is that you can ask your chef to add whatever you’d like on the spot.
Where there’s teppanyaki, there’s Wagyu, Japan’s famous beef known the world over for its buttery softness and superior flavour.
Japan’s famous Wagyu beef graces the tables of high-end restaurants around the globe. Though “Wagyu” literally means “Japanese beef,” the term specifically refers to first-rate beef best known for its umami, or savoury flavour, and soft, velvety texture, the result of generous fat marbling due to meticulous breeding. Teppanyaki restaurants will typically have a selection of Wagyu beef, including Kobe beef.
There are strict criteria that need to be met before beef can officially be considered Wagyu. The beef must come from one of only four breeds of Japanese cattle, and in order to be accurately registered and traced, the cattle must be born and bred in Japan. So although Wagyu cattle are bred in the US, Australia and right here in Canada, premium Wagyu still tends to be imported.
Behold, the volcano! This is one of the teppanyaki chef’s most popular and flashy tricks. Chefs slice an onion into rings and arrange them in a stacked cone. Next they fill the cone with oil and light’em up! The resulting jet of flame, followed by a trail of smoke, really does look like a mini volcano.
Yamoto Japanese Restaurant
Yamoto’s chefs will delight both your eyes and your tastebuds with a whirlwind of culinary showmanship culminating in a delicious gourmet feast. Located in trendy Yorkville, Yamoto boasts a classy Japanese- style dining room and open-air patio. It also has a wide selection of sake and Japanese liquor to pair with your meal. Get a taste of Teppanyaki at one of the oldest restaurants in Toronto.
24 Bellair St., Toronto 416-927-0077
Hibachi Teppanyaki and Bar
Hibachi’s eclectic menu offers a range of Japanese fare, including a hot teppanyaki bar featuring chefs with “samurai-like swords-manship.” It has a number of teppanyaki sets including filet mignon, lobster tail and striploin steak as well as a varied sushi menu. Be sure to give Hibachi’s sushi burgers a try when you’re there. Hibachi has locations in Toronto, Burlington and Oakville.
Katsura Japanese Restaurant
At Katsura, quality is key. The restaurant is located inside the prestigious Westin Hotel. The chefs at Katsura put on an exciting, high-energy show, and use nothing but the freshest ingredients including sushi-grade fish. Wagyu beef is available as well. Katsura’s chefs are masters of their craft, both cooking and performance. Look forward to an unforgettable teppanyaki experience at Katsura.
900 York Mills Rd., NorthYork • 416-444-2511
Where to find teppanyaki in the GTA
Now that you’re salivating for some sizzling teppanyaki, here’s where to go.
Prince Japanese Steakhouse
Located on Eglinton Avenue West, Prince Japanese Steakhouse boasts teppanyaki steaks so tender you won’t even need a knife. Beautiful presentation and a steadfast commitment to only the finest ingredients make Prince Japanese Steakhouse a winner.
5555 Eglinton Ave. W., Toronto • 416-695-2828 www.princesteakhouse.com
First opened in New York by Japanese wrestler Hiroaki Aoki, Benihana has become a household name for Western teppanyaki. Benihana’s charismatic and flashy chefs are sure to leave you smiling and satiated.
100 Front St. W., Toronto 416-860-5002
Matsuda Japanese Cuisine
Matsuda currently offers well-priced teppanyaki lunch sets that come with miso soup, salad, grilled vegetables, bacon-fried rice and dessert, plus six of its delicious sushi rolls, available at its two locations.
5651 Steeles Ave. E., Scarborough • 416-298-2998
1300 Don Mills Rd., NorthYork • 416-391-9188
At cosy family-owned restaurant Teppan Cave, chef Alex knows just how to keep diners happy. Premium cuts of meat, fresh veggies and attentive service make for fabulous reviews. And you can find okonomiyaki here too!
3540 Rutherford Rd., Unit 64, Vaughan • 905-553- 8848 • facebook.com/teppancave