Try Teppanyaki, they said. It’ll be fun, they said.
Teppanyaki always seems like a good idea to couples. Something about the danger of flying meat seems to really turn them on. They see it as the pinnacle of culinary experiences. The best thing since sushi! The holy grill!
Unfortunately, I do not share my coupled-friends appreciation of the popular Japanese cuisine. My only memory of Teppanyaki is picking egg out of my tear-soaked eyelashes after a year 6 party. The night had turned sour when I had failed to dodge a well-aimed omelet thrown at me by the chef. I was mortified and furious. If I had known what was coming I may have trained up before hand by asking my brother to spontaneously peg grapes at my face. But then again, back then the extent of my hand-eye coordination was being able to pour a cup of tea without giving myself third degree burns. So no, Teppanyaki was not my thing.
Nonetheless I recently found myself reluctantly agreeing to an invitation to join two couples on a night out to Teppanyaki. It’ll be a riot, they said.
One of the couples had found a bargain deal on Teppanyaki in north Parramatta. ‘Do I need to bring my passport?’ I thought. To be fair though, the offer had come from a group voucher website where almost anything would look like a good deal when listed next to ‘70% off a Pirate cruise!’.
It was somewhere between being seated at the only broken hot plate in an otherwise empty restaurant and being served the first course of cold springroll with confused garden salad that I realized this wasn’t going to be the life-changing Teppanyaki experience I had been promised.
The meat looked like something that had come from within the nostrils of the surly chef who served it to us. I might add at this point that by ‘serve’ I do not mean the fun flourish of flying food that is fundamental to the Teppanyaki style. Instead, as we had been seated at a broken hot plate, the chef performed the culinary acrobatics on the other side of the restaurant to another group of customers, and would then pile up his spoon with leftovers, shuffle over, and place one piece on each of our plates.
When we inquired as to whether we were able to move to another, perhaps working plate. We got this response:
“This your seat. Don’t worry, I will still throw food at you”
So here I was again. Picking egg out of my eyelashes and crying on the bathroom floor of a Teppanyaki restaurant. What a disaster.
When I returned to my table, however, I found the smiles that had slipped off my friends faces around the third course cockroach incident had returned. I began to realize as I proded the home brand ice-cream in front of me, that perhaps the beauty of Teppanyaki, and for that matter, any communal dining experience, is that it is an experience. Whether you find the city’s best secret, or floaties in your drink, you still leave with something more than what you entered with – even if it’s just a good story…or a rogue piece of chicken for later.