Teppanyaki dining is basically Japanese style dining, thought to have originated from a time when Japanese families would sit together to dine around a traditional hibachi grill.
The hibachi is a traditional Japanese heating device.
There are a couple of teppanyaki restaurants in Nairobi – the main one I know about is the one at the Furusato on General Mathenge Drive.
I was not at the teppanyaki table, but I was definitely one of the guests looking longingly at the table and the people who were experiencing such delight.
You see, the cool thing about teppanyaki is that the chef comes to your table, which has a heating area in the middle of it, and cooks, on what looks like your table, and serves the food directly onto your plate.
Think of it as one of those rotating table centres, but the table is hot, and covers a large part of one side of the table for the chef to cook.
It’s highly entertaining and quite an experience, which is how I felt when I saw it for the first time at Benihana, a restaurant at Westgate Resort in Las Vegas, Nevada.
The restaurant has beautiful ambience, right from when you walk in – the interiors are done in typical Oriental fashion, in reds and dark hues, lanterns conveniently placed around the area, and perhaps best of all, a waterfall coming down the middle of the main walkway over a bridge, from the second floor, that creates the aural effect of a calm chi.
We sat at our table and had a look at the impressive menu. I eventually decided on hibachi salmon with avocado tartar sauce.
In the seafood section, this is accompanied by five courses before it, namely Benihana Onion Soup, Benihana Salad, Benihana Shrimp Appetizer, Hibachi vegetables, home-made dipping sauces and steamed rice.
Kindly note, this was on top of my salmon that already consisted of grilled salmon served with a delectable, finger licking savoury avocado tartar sauce, with sautéed shitake mushrooms and asparagus in garlic butter, served with sautéed udon noodles. Suffice it to say, I was full until the next day.
And what I can’t deal with on most American menus? They just have to tell you how many calories each meal is going to give you, just so you are fully cognizant of your poor decision making.
That being said, I don’t regret that meal at all, the many calories notwithstanding.
The soup filled in a bit of my hunger, because by the time we got to the restaurant I was starving.
The salad seemed a bit sour, for reasons unbeknownst to me – the sauce that came drizzled over it had a fishy, citrusy aftertaste that no one at my table enjoyed.
However, the hibachi vegetables – onions and courgettes – as well as the shrimp appetizers, more than made up for the salad.
The shrimp was fresh and tasty and I had to hold myself back from stealing my little niece’s shrimp, because she wasn’t going to touch her portion. Sigh!
And can I just say that the salmon was some of the best salmon I’ve ever tasted in my life.
I would never normally put salmon and avocado together, but I guess fans of avocado are right when they say that avocado goes with simply everything – or in the very least, they were completely right with this one.
I love that the chef talks to you throughout the entire meal, making jokes about the fire, and what he’s doing, as he describes everything.
Teppanyaki chefs are not just excellent in the kitchen, they are also performers. You get a dinner, and you get a show.
My only regret is that I didn’t have more sake (a Japanese rice wine) …
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