My first experience with Teppanyaki was about a hundred years ago in a great little restaurant in Ottawa - that has been my standard for years, and I am always hopeful of recreating that experience.
Sakura in Kingston certainly is an experience, but I am not sure it really measures up to my "ideal".
First and foremost though, the food is great - what I like about teppanyaki is that you can see how your food is cooked and know exactly what is (or is not) in it - like MSG or other yucky stuff.
The chef who performs at the grill is generally quite skilled at putting on the show - of course some have a little more showmanship and skill than others, and I have to say that if you have had the teppanyaki experience a few times, it would be nice to have the option of saying no show thanks, just do the cooking. Although first time diners (or those sufficiently "lubricated") may find it fun to have the chef try to flip bits of veggies from the grill into their open mouths, others who dont want to have food flung on their clothes or in their face or hair do not.
On our last trip to celebrate my daughters birthday on April 4th at about 630pm, we were told that we couldnt have steak, as they were all sold out. Really? That early? We were disappointed, and had to settle for chicken and seafood, which was wonderful anyway. But still....
The atmosphere is where the restaurant really loses points. When the fans go on over the flat top, you can kiss any thought of conversation goodbye, as you simply cannot hear over the noise. Add to that boisterous diners at each of the four food stations (seating 10 people at each) and all you can do is smile and nod.
The pace of the service is just a little too quick - like "eat your soup and get going". But the soup is good!! Salad is a little dull - garden variety with what - 1000 islands dressing? Surely there are Japanese salads that can be substituted for this weak offering. Not all of us have plebian taste buds! Give me choice!
The staff - bless their hearts. Its hard to make a comment without sounding....you know. So I wont. BUT.....they dont appear to be happy to be there, or happy to have customers. I know that sounds a little vague, but when coupled with my comment about the pace of service, it creates a feeling of being rushed through the meal and out the door.
This restaurant can be pricey - its about $20 or more for steak and shrimp combo at the flat top per person. But that includes soup and salad (see above!), a big bowl of rice, and veggies. You can also order tempura bento boxes which are a little less expensive, and of course, you can order a la carte dishes, everything from sushi to sashimi, including eel and I think octopus. If you order alcohol you are really racking up the Air Miles.
If your children are food adventurous, then I encourage you to take them, but there are no burgers and fries here. Well, maybe there is a childrens menu, but I've never seen it. Older kids are the onew who really appreciate the flip the food into your mouth bit.
Would I go again? Yes, but not for a long time - it should really be a rare treat, because you can get good steak and seafood at other great restaurants in Kingston. There are other places that have an infinitely nicer, cozier ambiance. But when you have a real showman, no one puts on a display of culinary prowess like the chefs here, and then it is a real treat - the first couple of times.
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