I’m an avid lover of ‘fun’ meals where cooking or serving food involves more active participation from customers (such as hotpot or Korean bbq where it’s mostly DIY) or a meal where we get to watch some sort of ‘show’ in front of us. The latter can be said for teppanyaki restaurants as talented chefs cook up a storm right in front of you. For those of you who don’t know what teppanyaki is, teppan is the Japanese word for an iron plate and teppanyaki is naturally the type of cuisine cooked on top of iron plates. Some teppanyaki restaurants actually throw food at you where you’re meant to catch it with your bowl, or if more daring, with your mouth. This type of participation can often lead to dirty shirts or burnt lips and is a rare occurrence nowadays.
I recently visited Teppanyaki Inn on Collins St, Melbourne after recommendations from an ex-colleague who is also Japanese. It was a very nice find albeit not being the cheapest meal out there, but we did get a lot of good value ingredients such as good grade beef and scallops. Situated at 182 Collins St, it didn’t have much street frontage so it wasn’t the easiest place to find. Once inside, I was in awe of the high ceiling and almost warehouse like feeling which is a good design for this type of cuisine (smoke and fumes from the hot plate needs ventilation). The restaurant was quite dark except for the lights on top of each teppan and created a very nice atmosphere. According to their website, Teppanyaki Inn was established in 1975 and was the earliest teppanyaki style eatery in the whole of Australia. That’s certainly something to be proud of!
We were served with the usual sauces but this time, a waitress actually poured fresh sauce into the bowls. I liked that extra personal touch compared to the usual pre-poured bowls brought out from the kitchen. A thing to be careful of though, if you don’t order a main meal, you will be charged an additional $10 for the sauces.
|Waitress pouring sesame sauce|
The sauces usually come in soy based and sesame based. You can dip the ingredients in whichever sauce you like, but I find meat goes better in the soy based sauce and seafood is better in the sesame sauce. That’s just my preference though.
|Dipping sauces – sesame and soy based|
In between the sauces was complimentary pickled cucumber and wakame (seaweed) which was very refreshing. It made me salivate and wanting more!
|Complimentary pickled cucumber and wakame (seaweed)|
We went as a group of 11 and we all ordered the teppanyaki special dinner set for $59pp with the Tasmanian tenderloin beef. It’s a common occurrence for teppanyaki chefs to combine two tables worth of food onto the one trolley to save space, since usually two hot plates are right next to each other. This trolley looked like way too much food even for 11 of us.
I was surprised though that two chefs actually came to cook for us because all the other tables only had one chef. I guess we had one of the largest groups that night. They worked very hard, especially the one who’s further away in the photo. He was cooking away nonstop for us the whole night.
The first thing to appear on the hot plate was potatoes, although they didn’t end up on our plates till a bit later as they took longer to cook. I love potatoes in any shape and form so this was a good start to the meal for me. They had been cooked for long enough to have a slightly crispy outer layer and a gooey soft and very hot middle.
Next up was mushrooms which is another favourite of mine. It’s hard to get mushrooms wrong!
One of the highlights during a teppanyaki meal is watching the chefs cook and cut the prawns. The fast clinking of the knife and spatula make them look so professional.
The prawn heads are removed and flattened then cooked until so crunchy you can eat the whole thing, although it might not be the thing for everyone.
|Separated prawn head and prawn meat|
The scallops also had to be commended. They were juicy and cooked to perfection. I didn’t even need to dip it in sauce to enjoy its natural flavours.
|Prawns and scallops|
A wedge of lemon was provided for the seafood along with a lemon squeezer. I had never seen this in a restaurant before and was a bit intrigued. I wonder where I’d be able to buy one for home.
After the seafood, we were ready for the main star of the night. Beef! The chef was so fast that I couldn’t take a photo of the whole beef before he cut it up but when he noticed my frantic look, he was very nice and held the beef in place for me until I was done.
|Tasmanian tenderloin beef|
I loved the smell and sound of the beef scorching on the hot plate, although by the time we had to eat the beef, I was already getting a little full.
The beef also came with cooked garlic which might not be so good for the breathe but is fantastic together with the beef.
|Tenderloin beef with garlic|
A teppanyaki meal wouldn’t be complete without freshly cooked veggies and nothing can be better than my two favourites – baby spinach and bean shoots. The spinach was as expected, refreshing, healthy and tasty. As we had just eaten a lot of beef, spinach was good to wash it all down and clean my palate.
The bean shoots were lined up in a long row and divided into small equal portions for each person using a knife.
We were also served with rice and miso soup but I had already taken so many photos that I completely forgot to take one of them. They were however, no surprise. The miso soup was great after the huge meal and I frankly couldn’t finish the rice at all. Not after a SECOND serving of beef! Yes, you read right. We somehow had a second serving of the same beef which I’m not sure why this was the case. Maybe they left some out during the first batch? I had to give some of my beef away since I was so bloated already.
I think the hardest job of being a teppanyaki chef is the cleaning up. The hot plate is VERY hot, I had burnt my finger on one before when I wasn’t careful so having to lean on top of the hot plate all night and then having to use a lot of strength to scrape and wipe that hot plate down is not an easy or comfortable task at all. I have a great amount of respect for teppanyaki chefs so keep up the good work and never give up!
For the price, it’s obviously not a place I can afford everyday but if I wanted to have teppanyaki, I would happily consider Teppanyaki Inn for a revisit. Atmosphere, service and food quality are all high on the scale and the location is great for a Friday night work or social gathering.
Phone: (03) 9650 9431
182 Collins St, Melbourne CBD, VIC 3000