Dining at Tepanyaki with Grandma and Knife-clanging Kung Fo Masters

Quan Duong writes about a family trip to a local Japanese hotspot where the food was great and so was the entertainment

 

sushi

Tepanyaki, a “Japanese Steakhouse and Sushi Bar” was my family’s destination for dinner when my grandma flew to Salt Lake, Utah to visit us last weekend. Besides Vietnamese food — which is our origin–  Japanese cuisine has always been my first choice for a family’s night out. Even though I had tried many traditional Japanese restaurants, this was my first time going to this type of Japanese steakhouse, which later turned out to be a perfect choice.

At Tepanyaki, customers have the option of having Sushi only at the Sushi Bar, or having Tepanyaki, which is usually known as Hibachi grills. My family picked the Hibachi one. According to the information I found here, Tepanyaki comes from the Japanese word Teppanyaki, which is a style of Japanese cuisine that uses an irongriddle to cook food. “The word teppanyaki is derived from “teppan” which means iron plate, and “yaki” which means grilled, broiled, or pan-fried.” Hibachi cooking is an Art that has been performed since the early of 1900’s.

Each table comes with a personal chef who not only cooks food but also delights to perform with the skill and art in which he has been training for years.

We arrived with a small group with four people: my grandma, my parents and I and we were assigned the seats opposite another middle-aged couple to fill up the table. This was the part I didn’t like about this restaurant. Totally weird. We couldn’t have any conversation.

“Why would you want to have a conversation where strangers could hear you? “said my grandma with a little bit of upset on her face.

There’s nothing better than a Tempura for appetizers, so I ordered the shrimp one with an Okonomiyaki, a Japanese savory pancake containing a variety of special ingredients. For the main dish, I picked the Tepanyaki Deluxe, which contained lobster tail, fillet mignon and King crab with house fried rice. The appetizers were already cooked in the kitchen and came first. Shrimp tempura was crispy and good as always, but the Okonomiyaki impressed us the most. The first time I tried this pancake was almost ten years ago, so the feeling that day was like brand new.

“Awesome!” said my dad, who couldn’t stop praising how great it was, “I would definitely look for the recipe and make my own Okonomiyaki at home”.

About five minutes later, the most special part of the dinner got started when a chef walked out with his small cart containing raw foods, some kinds of sauce and ingredients. We had Lou – a young Taiwanese as our chef and he was awesome with friendliness as well as lots of jokes. The performance began when he heated up the iron plate with the splash of ginger and mustard sauces; side dishes followed, sizzling in a mix of hot oil and soy sauce. Everyone was saying “Wow!” when he did the knife-clanging, zucchini throwing drill, and vegetables chopping in the air like a Kungfu Master Chef as in Chinese movies. Lou kept surprising us with his talented skills and many incredible tricks as he caught the flying bowl of fried rice without losing a grain, flipped a shrimp tail into his shirt pocket, caught an egg in his hat, tossed an egg up in the air and split it with a spatula.

George and Nancy, the middle-aged couple on the opposite side, couldn’t believe in their eyes. While George was gaping at the chef with his eyes and mouth opened in surprise, his fiancée Nancy was focusing on recording every movements of Lou with her cell phone. It’s Lou who lit up the exciting environment of the night with his performance and brought every one closer. My family had lots of interesting conversations with George and Nancy, and Lou as well. We laughed out loud as Lou shared real experience about his life and this career:

“You guys cannot imagine how many eggs, dishes and bowls I have broken on those first days of training. That amount could have filled up as high as Mount Fuji in Japan, haha.”

My lobster and crabs were seasoned very well. The fragrant steak was grilled to order by the chef before cutting it into one-inch bites with a few sharp slashes of the cleaver. I could feel the juicy flavor in the meat. While we were enjoying our meal, Lou performed some other tricks like juggling utensils or arrange onion rings into fire-shooting volcanoes. Yummy! Every one gave him a big applause for the amazingly creative volcanoes. The part I liked most was when he flipped flattened shrimp pieces into diners’ mouths. I missed the first two times, and finally caught it on my third try. It was very funny and entertaining. I really enjoy my dinner. House fried rice was the last dish to be processed once all the foods we ordered were served already. Even though fried rice is very simple to cook, it was much more delicious under Lou’s skillful hands. The Japanese sticky rice tasted so good, together with eggs and fragrant smell of butter were a perfect ending for an awesome meal. Finally, Lou cleaned the iron plate, wished us a great meal and pulled his cart back into the kitchen. We continued with our foods till we finished and got home about twenty minutes later.

“It was my first time to a Japanese Steakhouse, and I loved my experience. The host did an incredible job. He was so great with his hands and had amazing control of the knives. He had a smile on his face the entire time, even when I missed the shrimp toss three times, haha. Everything was absolutely delicious and cooked perfectly! I have heard good things about the Sushi Bar here, would definitely come back and try soon.” said Nancy as she offered me a quick interview after dinner.

I would give this Tepanyaki an A in overall, A in food and environment, A+ in service and performance but, a B in price since these types of restaurant typically cost higher because of the personal chef. However, it’s worth giving a try! Treat yourself for birthdays or special anniversaries and you’ll enjoy wonderful times with your loved ones like my family and I did. For a big meal that makes me full, I would go to a buffet, but for a warm dining out, I can see this place being a potential spot with the entertainment and cultural value. “It’s not just dinner, It’s Entertainment”, said the slogan of the restaurant. I love this place and highly recommend Tepanyaki to my friends!

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