March 27, 2009
A new teppanyaki restaurant looks West for inspiration
Originally published on metropolis.co.jp on March 2009Hiasobi sits in the warren of side streets between Shibuya and Daikanyama, but in another sense, it’s located between Tokyo and LA. Open since November, this teppanyaki grill combines a feeling of Japanese sophistication with the anything-goes spirit of
The small, moodily lit interior has just a single row of chairs opposite the large grill, plus a solitary four-person table near a glassed-in alcove. This window seat offers a measure of seclusion for couples and small groups, and it’s a nice perch to watch the local hipsters pass by below.
But sitting there means you’ll miss the excitement at the grill. Hiasobi’s busy chefs prepare traditional teppanyaki fare like seasonal vegetables, seafood and wagyu steaks, but they add offbeat spicing and arty presentation. The selection of hot and cold appetizers is more reminiscent of an upscale tapas bar than a Japanese grill: diced salmon tartare drizzled with a port-tamari sauce (¥1,800); sautéed scallops layered with foie gras (¥1,200); fried oysters with phyllo strips seasoned with aurore sauce (¥1,100).
Elsewhere, the menu is more explicitly Western—or, rather, Southwestern. Tuna and avocado salad is served in a tortilla-like shell (¥1,400), while deep-fried soft-shell crab comes with guacamole and a sauce of semi-dried tomatoes and jalapenos (at ¥1,200, this is one of the best deals on the menu). We don’t know whether Hiasobi is the only teppanyaki restaurant in Tokyo that serves cheese quesadillas (¥1,000), but it’s certainly the only one we’ve been to that does.
At dinner, a ¥3,800 prix fixe menu includes an appetizer, a salad, three items from the grill, risotto and ice cream; other course meals are available for ¥6,500 and ¥10,000. Diners can enjoy bottomless servings of homemade bread with anchovy-infused tapenade, and the two dozen à la carte dishes include a not-to-be-missed entrée of grilled Spanish pork with 25-year-old balsamic vinaigrette (below, ¥2,800).
Unlike many teppanyaki restaurants, which either charge a fortune for lunch or skip the service completely, Hiasobi offers a wallet-friendly midday deal. A lineup of several set menus, served with all the bread and tapenade you can eat, cost just ¥1,000. On a recent visit, the choices included cheese risotto with white-meat fish; salmon fillet with mushrooms and greens; and a juicy grilled chicken thigh with balsamic-mustard sauce. Bottomless drinks are just an extra ¥200. If you’re still hungry, just pick something off the dinnertime à la carte menu—like that gooey quesadilla served with guac, tomatoes and greens.