Grilled “teppanyaki” is a must try

Grilled “teppanyaki” is a must try

by Keith T. Graff
Stripes Okinawa Archives

Teppanyaki restaurants, or Japanese steakhouses as they’re sometimes called, may have their roots in Japan. However, the cuisine that most westerners usually associate with the word is not entirely Japanese.

The word “teppanyaki” comes from the Japanese word “teppan,” which is a large flat cooking grill and “yaki” which means grilled or broiled. It all started right after World War II and could best be described as a unique style of Japanese cuisine with a touch of Americana.

Back then, Americans new to Japan were mostly unfamiliar with the elegance and intricacies associated with the Japanese dining experience.

For the many American servicemen and their families stationed here during the post war era, it helped make the idea of venturing off base for a meal all the more palatable. For Japanese restaurateurs, it was all the more profitable.

There are essentially two basic styles of teppan-cooked food in Japan. Japanese style teppan dishes include yakisoba, or fried soba noodles with a host of wonderful goodies added for flavor. “Okonomiyaki” is a batter-based dish grilled on the teppan with “whatever you like” added, which is essentially what the word okonomiyaki means.

Western-style teppan dishes typically include ingredients like beef, shrimp, scallops, lobster and chicken with assorted vegetables.

Competition in this business is keen. Many enterprising restaurateurs found they not only had to serve up great food but in many cases they had to come up with innovative ways to bring in the customers. Some establishments added a chef performance to their repertoire such as juggling their utensils and tossing and catching shrimp tails in their hat or pocket.

Now, Okinawa has many teppanyaki restaurants to choose from. Kadena Air Base has Jacks Place near Gate 1. For an off-base foray into gastric heaven, you’ll find many restaurants conveniently located near most of the larger bases and the major shopping districts.

When the choice is between having dinner with a show or a truly mouthwatering delight, one place stands head and shoulders above the rest: Heki restaurants are an upscale chain with five restaurants in Naha.

For those of you who prefer really fine food in a more casual setting, the Mitsukoshi Mae store is an excellent choice. It’s located at the courtyard, one block east of the main entrance to the Heiwa Dori on Kokusai Street. It’s across from – you guessed it – Mitsukoshi Department Store.

Harue Takahashi runs Mitsukoshi Mae. She and her professional, friendly staff take great pride in providing a truly marvelous dining experience. They use the finest quality meat, freshest local vegetables and best rice from Niigata Prefecture. They also use a specific brand of salt derived from deep seawater and naturally extracted olive oil to assure great taste.

The décor here is contemporary and sparkling clean. Let’s just say that if cleanliness is next to Godliness, then the whole menu would be nothing short of divine. They are family oriented and always accommodating. Because Takahashi loves children, families with little ones are always welcome and they have English menus for easy ordering.

The location and atmosphere make it an ideal place to finish up after a hard day of sightseeing and shopping or to start an evening out on the town. They’re open daily from 11:30 a.m. to 11 p.m. Last orders are taken at 10 p.m. Though a little on the pricy side, the food is outstanding and well worth the visit. They take Visa, Master Card, American Express and, of course, yen.

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