With over 130,000 restaurants in Tokyo, trying to find one to visit can prove a daunting task. This is where a good hotel concierge comes in. After discussions as to what I was looking for, my concierge had no hesitation in recommending Teppan-yaki Yamanami in the Shinjuku area of Tokyo. So off I went.
I knew that I had made the right decision as I sat on the spotless Metro train. The night before I had over-indulged in sushi at the late night sushi place near the hotel so a teppanyaki meal would definitely be welcome. Yamanami is located in the Keio Plaza Hotel in Tokyo. Once I arrived, the hostess greeted me promptly with good English and led me into the restaurant. The room is bright and airy with large windows; one side looking over the Tokyo skyline and the other a calming lush Japanese rooftop garden. The menus were ceremoniously handed to me and I was pleased to see that they were also in good written English. The wine list is definitely of note here – a very impressive collection.
I selected the ‘Kashiwa‘ menu which featured half a lobster and, the reason I came here, Kobe beef. If you are not aware, Kobe beef is the most tender, succulent and best tasting beef on the market at the moment. It’s a highly marbled meat that only a few restaurants are licensed to serve – Yamanami being one. I could hardly wait!
The meal started with an amuse bouche and a plate of playful appetizers. Bite-size servings of tofu, octopus carpaccio and a slice of prosciutto. It sounds like a simple plate and it was, yet a lot of care and effort that went in to making it look beautiful! All the little snacks were fresh and tasty – even the silky tofu (something I usually balk at) was teaming with subtle flavours.
The chef fired up his grill and started to grill the vegetables and prepare the lobster. In other places around the world, teppanyaki usually involves a lot of theatrics as the food is being prepared. However, in Japan, the focus is on the precision of the knifework, the quality of the ingredients and the presentation. So compared to a western teppanyaki restaurant this is a somewhat subdued affair. Back to the lobster – perfectly done and seasoned just right such that the sweetness of the meat just came through with each delicious bite.
After a short break, the chef returned and started to prepare the prized Kobe beef sirloin. He seasoned it with salt and placed it on the clean, hot grill. Immediately the marbled, prime cut of beef sizzled as the fat started to cook and I just looked on mesmerized and drooling. His knife cut through the meat like butter as he served it along side some freshly grilled garlic and cracked black pepper. I carefully sprinkled some cracked pepper on beef and placed a piece of garlic on top. I had to contain my excitement and play cool as I nonchalantly lifted the piece of beef towards my mouth. The first bite was like your first kiss, everything around you seemed to disappear as all your senses hone in to that one experience. A perfectly done cut of beef, that simply melted on your tongue. Absolutely stellar.
The beef did not last long at all and as I was groaning with joy over each piece, the chef prepared some garlic fried rice and served it with miso soup and a plate of fresh fruit quickly followed. I, happily, enjoyed all of these but out of the corner of my eye I kept staring at the plate that held my beef hoping that, miraculously, another piece would appear.
Teppan-yaki Yamanami is a ‘Good‘ restaurant. A peaceful setting with servers that speak fluent English and are able to explain the menu effortlessly. The food is also good (the beef spectacular). It is a fairly expensive meal and I realise that most of this is the Kobe beef, but I still don’t believe that it reflects good value. However, Yamanami is a restauarnt that will not disappoint you especially if you are headed out for a special occasion.
‘Triple F’ Factor 0/1