A Japanese open kitchen concept, teppanyaki is an art of cooking that builds anticipation and excitement for the foods on the iron griddle. Competition among teppanyaki restaurants is fierce, and I’ve eaten my way through the city to bring you two of the best teppanyaki spots in town. Trust me, you’ll want to lick the plates clean when you’re done.
The show kitchen at Keyakizaka highlights the life and character of teppanyaki cuisine, allowing one to fully immerse oneself in an experience of note. When I am comfortably seated, an amuse-bouche of grilled tomato is placed in front of me, plump and swollen from the slow heat with hints of balsamic, mustard, honey, pine nuts and pancetta—a thing of true beauty, promising of a glorious meal about to begin.
When the cod papillote arrives wrapped in a special Italian parcel, the robust aromas of truffle makes my heartbeat quicken. Like a child unwrapping a present on Christmas Day, I close my eyes as I inhale the rich truffle scent. Eryngii, hen of the forest and shiitake mushrooms are broiled with seasonal vegetables in a truffle broth until it gets envious glances from neighboring diners. It may come out of a bag, but a bag the equivalent to an Hermès Birkin in the world of fashion. The humble cod is displayed to the very best of its advantage.
By this time, my expectations have soared. The chef starts preparing their signature beef tasting platter—four types, 30 grams each—of Kobe tenderloin, Iwate Minami tenderloin, Furano tenderloin and Furano sirloin. It feels like forever as I watch the meat cook, though it takes less than five minutes. As I chew on a cube of Kobe tenderloin tentatively, I can taste its delicate beefy flavors flourishing in my mouth, amplified by a dab of wasabi. Then there is tenderloin from Iwate Prefecture that tastes of pure beef, while the cuts from Furano lean toward the fatty side, beautifully marbled and exceptionally good. An experience at Keyakizaka is one to be remembered—and remembered fondly.
Keyakizaka Teppanyaki. Grand Hyatt Tokyo 4F ,6-10-3 Roppongi, Minato-ku. Nearest station: Roppongi. Tel: 03-4333-8782. Mon–Fri 11:30am–2:30pm, 6pm–9:30pm; Sat–Sun 11:30am–3pm, 6pm–9:30pm.
A meal here also begins with an amuse-bouche: a petite cube of spinach cake, an appetizer display of botan ebi (botan shrimp) on a slice of sudachi, tuna laid over a single shiso leaf, and buri (yellowtail) on a heap of grated daikon and yuzu. The taste highlights the freshness of the seafood, patted down with a tinge of unexpected umami. Infiltrated by miso, salt and nori, the signature ise ebi (Japanese spiny lobster) is fired up on the griddle to a lushness that commands attention. Then there are seasonal vegetables, grilled with the faintest touch of salt and pepper that leaves their natural flavors and textures barely tempered. They are brought into focus with house-made sauces such as daidai (a bittersweet Japanese orange) in ponzu.
For the highlight of the meal, the chef recommends Kobe beef. The meat is seared just short of tender with a variety of Japanese seasonings. They know their place and work simply to deepen the natural flavors of the meat without eclipsing it. Kobe beef sirloin is marbled with fat to the point of extreme sweetness, shattering and sinking under the teeth. I am recommended a French red with opening scents of licorice and a finish of orange peel. It cuts through the fattiness of the meat while further emphasizing and suffusing its beefy sweetness. It is sheer pleasure, and the tenderloin is no different—a leaner version of its cousin, both served alongside garlic rice with crisp bits infused with wok hei (Cantonese: “breath of the wok”) flavors the way paella is with socarrat.
A space of darkness and wine overlooking the city’s skyscrapers, aromatic with mouthwatering grilled meats, Yamanami is the kind of place you’ll want to return to time and time again.
Yamanami. Keio Plaza Hotel Tokyo 7F, 2-2-1 Nishi-Shinjuku, Shinjuku-ku. Shinjuku. Tel: 03-3344-0111. Mon–Sun 11:30am–3pm, 5pm–10pm.