Thursday, October 11, 2007

Kobe Teppan &Sushi

Before I start, I should probably say that I'm one of those guys who thinks that teppanyaki is comfort food. I wouldn't say I exactly grew up on Benihana, but I'll say that I started young there, and enjoyed every dinner over the years. Yeah, the food isn't the absolute best I've had, it's not the best tenderloin, not the best shrimp, not even the best chicken fried rice, but it's consistently the same: pretty good, easy on the digestion, and it seems to hit a spot that other restaurants just don't. Yeah, I'm a closet teppanyaki fan. And I'm also a fan of consistency- every meal the way I expect it to be, whether the locations or the years change.

But if I'm a closet teppan guy, I'm proud to advertise my love of Kobe beef. I ate, in Kobe, during the whole prion scare, because I figured my odds are good, and, how often does one find oneself in Kobe anyway?

So I wanted to like Kobe Teppan & Sushi. I really did. I even dredged up my 'ol dad's tale about teppanyaki is not a 200-year old tradition of Japanese cooking, in fact it's not really Japanese at all. It was fusion before there was fusion- a combination of American diner'esque grillmastery, seafood and meat, and an Asian flair and flavor. The way my dad put it, he said, "the Japanese were impressed with the American style grills, and brought them back to Japan. After they developed teppanyaki, they brought it back here."

Combining Kobe beef (even if it's really just the Snake River Wagyu stuff, rather than meat imported from the source), should've made for one fine meal. But maybe here's where the whole Benihana exposure runs to their detriment. Every detail appeared calculated to be Benihana-esque, without hitting exactly the right note. Like they were a drug company working to hit the same receptor, but having to change the formula just enough to avoid a patent dispute.

Now, under most circumstances, I'd jump to combine these two. And then I'd look to see where I was gonna land. But the price for "Kobe" over tenderloin was pretty much a doubling of the price. Combine that with a bit of spidey-sense tingling, and I went tenderloin for the evening. Which turned out to be a good bet (just because it would have been unwise to double-down on my 10 with an Ace showing, on what turned out to ultimately be a losing hand anyway).

The soup wasn't piping hot, and it wasn't particularly flavorful. The salad, mainly icebergs and a nondescript thousand island type dressing, was lackluster. The "chicken fried rice" was so fried-rice and non-chicken that the couple next to me actually asked for a refund of the chicken fried rice on their receipt, seeing as how they were totally unaware that they'd actually eaten any. For the record, there were indeed tiny portions of chicken that I detected because I was really, really looking for them, and so I paid that part of the bill, even though I was really tempted to just jump in and say, "yeah, us too!"

As for the main course- As Randy might say, "that was only okay for me." The spectacle was reasonably done, with the knives, and the big wooden salt shakers and the catching of the shrimp tails. The kids probably couldn't tell the difference. But for me, and here's how I sum up the place: I went to Benihana not long thereafter, to remind myself what the "real thing" was like.

13741 Newport Ave
Tustin, CA 92780
(714) 544-4055

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Comments on "Kobe Teppan &Sushi"

Blogger Kelvin said ... (January 28, 2008 at 5:05 PM) : 

sadly to say, the "Koki's" chain just doesn't have much reputation for good food :-)

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