Wednesday, March 25, 2015

First bite: Teppanyaki done right at Sumikawa

Nadine Kam photos
A slice of A5 Kobe simply flavored with a drag across a pink Himalayan salt dish that guests take home for later use. The hope is that you bring it back on a return visit to Teppanyaki Ginza Sumikawa.

First there was Vintage Cave with a $300 per person set menu. Then Sushi Ginza Onodera with its $160 to $250 per person omakase. Was Honolulu ready for such pricey dining experiences, with no cheaper diversion? Other restaurants may have offered similar set menus, but also offered a la carte options for those who could only afford a trio of appetizers or so.

There is also the question of value. We’ve all had experiences in which the quality was not commensurate to the steep price.

Yet, I feel both these restaurants deliver on quality and experience, and there are enough in town who agree, who have made a sister Ginza restaurant possible.

With its exceptional quality, presentation and service, Sushi Ginza Onodera has become a trusted destination for sushi aficionados, and the company has full intention to do the same with teppanyaki at the newly open Teppanyaki Ginza Sumikawa.

They are able to produce Japan’s Kobe Beef Certificate of Authenticity.

I have to admit I still had some doubts when I heard the company was opening a teppanyaki restaurant with similar price points to Onodera. I think many of us are acquainted with the idea of the high-price sushi bar. But when it comes to teppanyaki, the American experience is most closely associated with Benihana of Tokyo and its founder’s emphasis on fun and entertainment above all, making it a sort of Chuck E. Cheese party place for adults.

In Japan, teppanyaki is taken much more seriously. Even so, I couldn’t fathom a $250 per person teppanyaki meal when I still imagined itty bitty morsels of beef and shrimp. To pay just $100 for two still seems like a lot for that.

Well, consider me a believer now. All my doubts dissipated with each mouthful at Sumikawa, and it was with a spirit of zen, reverence and awe that I watched the chefs work their magic.

There are no knife tricks here, no turning a chef’s toque into a basket for catching flying morsels of shrimp, and no onion volcanoes spouting steam. There is only the clean, deft grilling of meat, seafood, shellfish and preparation of sauces in just the right measure, before your eyes.

Of interest to gourmands is the focus on the quality of ingredients, such that sauce or dressings don’t distract from the essence of the meat and seafood. I don’t expect everyone to understand or appreciate this. I watch too many people dump ketchup or shoyu on food before even tasting it, and note that many are fond of heavy sauces and gravies that I think have a masking effect on food. Those who understand this will have no qualms about paying the asking price here.
Teppanyaki Ginza Sumikawa is at 1726 S. King St. (past Punahou, between Elsie and Pawaa Lanes). Open 5:30 to 9:30 p.m. Tuesdays to Sundays. Set menu prices: $200, $225 or $250 per person. As in Japan, no gratuity policy. Call 784-0567.

Chef de Cuisine Keijiro Yamane, left, with Executive Chef Takanori Kambe, who came from Japan to oversee the restaurant’s opening.

We started by putting on a bib to protect us from possible spatters from the teppan. But considering the chefs’ skill, I wasn’t worried at all. I’ve done much worse at Italian restaurants. Red sauce = danger.

Sweet potato mousse with caviar served on crostini.

Kobe tenderloin topped with fried elephant garlic chip and freshly grated wasabi.

Blinis took shape on the grill, and were filled with minced A5 Omi wagyu.

Kagoshima A4 wagyu carpaccio with a touch of light curry mayonnaise dressing, Parmesan and topped with a mini salad of amaranth, kaiware sprouts, radish and arugula.

Foie gras and daikon line the teppan. The oil comes off the foie gras and is drained away.

The foie gras layered over daikon and served with poivre sauce.

Corn vichyssoise showcased the natural sweetmess of the corn and potatoes from Japan. Although every attempt is made to use local products and produce, in some instances, there are no substitutes.

Veggie sticks delivered standing upright in a glass of iced water.

The seafood and meat we ordered were presented before preparation of the main courses. Above are the lobster, abalone, Hokkaido uni and Itoyori snapper fillets from Nagasaki. Below, a basketful of vegetables from which guests could select a couple to accompany beef. These ranged from green papaya to onions, mushrooms, eggplant and okra.

The snapper was served over saffron risotto and surrounded by pools with Hokkaido sea urchin cream sauce. You can see one of the saffron threads.

 On the lower priced menu, you have a choice of abalone or lobster. On the high end, you get both. Prep varies for both over time. When I visited, the abalone was served with olive tapenade.

A word for the squeamish, the lobster legs continue to wriggle on the grill after it’s dead, so you may not want to see that.
Nadine Kam is Style Editor and staff restaurant critic at the Honolulu Star-Advertiser; her coverage is in print on Wednesdays and Thursdays. Contact her via email at and follow her on Twitter, Instagram and Rebel Mouse.

No comments:

Post a Comment