By The Gastronomes
Let’s start out with the basics. What exactly is teppanyaki? According to the gurus I consulted via Google, it is a style of Japanese cuisine that uses an iron griddle to cook food. The word teppanyaki is derived from teppan, which means iron plate, and yaki, which means grilled, broiled, or pan-fried. In Japan, teppanyaki refers to dishes cooked using an iron plate, including steak, shrimp, rice, and vegetables. Well, here at Tokyo Japanese Steakhouse (TJSH), as in most modern day Japanese Steakhouses, the iron skillet consists of a large stainless steel grill surrounded by 8 chairs on three sides with room for the tableside chef on the other. This setting provides for the perfect place to “entertain” guests at the restaurant. It really is a show, however, this is not a place you want to go if you are in a hurry.
We decided to dine at TJSH for the January column since it is a bit different than what everyone has been eating during the holiday season and it is a fun way to start out the New Year. The food offerings tend to be a bit more on the healthy side – well..maybe with the exception of the tempura – and we thought our readers might want to get a jump start on those weight loss resolutions.
TJSH has been in operation since 1995 and they have sister locations in Woodbridge and Hampton, VA. The Old Town location on Canal Place isn’t exactly on the beaten path to anywhere and if you don’t have a GPS or haven’t downloaded Waze, the easiest way to get there is from North Fairfax Street and either way you are coming from turn toward the river on Canal Center by the Crowne Plaza Hotel. Look for the little sign on the left. There are a few off street parking spaces in front of the restaurant but street parking is fairly plentiful.
When this fun place first opened up we were invited to a “media” dinner with several other literary types and lots of real “foodies”. Needless to say, it was a fantastic time and the food was good. It was a good introduction and a welcome food venue to the city. Over the years, we had sort of forgotten about it until a friend of ours was in town from Belize this summer. He was looking for sushi and some Japanese cuisine and the light went on and we ventured over to TJSH. It was then that we discussed reviewing the restaurant for an upcoming column.
We were pleasantly surprised to see such a crowd on a Tuesday night – was barely 30 degrees out as well – and almost regretted not making a reservation, who knew?? That being said, it is a good idea to make one if you want to eat teppanyaki. If you are there for solely the sushi there is plenty of space in the small dining room where the sushi bar is. We lucked out by being a party of two because they sat us with a group of four that had been waiting for quite some time to be seated since they like to have the tables full before the chef starts doing his thing. Our dining partners were a family of four who were visiting the big city from a small town in North Carolina and it was there first time here. Was fun to visit with people who were first timers to the DC area. We asked where they were staying and they told us “near the Lincoln Memorial”. We looked at each other and asked in tandem, “How in the world did you find this place?” They found TJSK via some app one of the kids had on their iPhone. The wonders of being connected.
Anyway, we all ordered various combinations of noodles, fried rice, steamed rice, vegetables, chicken, shrimp and steak. It is amazing how these guys keep track of who had what and always seem to have the portions measured out to the last bean shoot. Each meal starts out with a house salad and miso soup that a server brings to the table. We treated ourselves to the house hot saki and it was a nice compliment to the food. As far as the menu is concerned, we decided that we weren’t going to regale you with it since I am sure most of you have the technology to check it out online. TJSH is not a cheap place to dine but you are paying for the entertainment at your table on top of the eats. We think it is worth the money – especially if you get the really funny chef that works there!
Tokyo Japanese Steakhouse
66 Canal Center Plaza
Old Town Alexandria