Kate Ryrie makes friends over fiery flying fish
Tucked away behind the bright lights of Belgrave Music Hall, Teppanyaki lies in wait, beckoning lovers of fire, flourish and flame – and those just intrigued by the idea of Japanese griddle cooking.
I’m somewhat apprehensive at the raucous joy that rises from the restaurant’s communal hot plates as we take our seats in the lounge. The room we’re in is small, hot, and full of both visible and audible sizzling.
chef arrives at the griddle, armed with knives, showmanship and a silence that renders him a league above
We order an Asahi beer (£3.95) and a large white wine (£6.95, no medium option, just tiny or huge) and tell the waitress we’ll go for the Yoko’s House Special (£37.50 per person), a set menu featuring starters, a selection of meat and rice, plus pudding.
Our drinks arrive and we’re taken to our ‘table’ – two seats at the side of a giant hot plate, behind which sits a trolley laden with fresh raw meat, translucent king prawns, veg, eggs and an assortment of mysterious sauces.
In traditional teppanyaki style, proceedings begin with a salad, which is surprisingly satisfying for a small bowl of shredded cabbage, carrot, tomato and cucumber. There’s some kind of sesame-y mayo nestling at the bottom, which is probably what gives it its appeal.
I’m starting to get over the weirdness of eating dinner with a party of strangers. There’s a couple to our right, and opposite us sit three generations of the same family, here celebrating a birthday (we find this out later, as the lights dim, and the familiar strains of Happy Birthday cavort through the air, but the less said about that, the better).
As our starters arrive, I’d go so far as to say camaraderie is forming – the sights, smells and sounds around us imbuing the whole thing with a sense of ‘fun’ that you don’t normally expect from a meal out.
Starters are substantial – individual platters bearing a California sushi roll, a spring roll, a fish cake and some teriyaki chicken. Dipping potential reaches an all-time high.
Starter plates are whisked away and our chef arrives at the griddle, armed with knives, showmanship and a silence that renders him a league above us mere diners.
It all starts with eggs. After a camera phone moment when oil bursts into face-warming flame (the kids are transfixed) eggs are cracked into the heat, and the games begin. Each female member of the communal horseshoe (myself included) is cheered up to stand and flick an eggshell into a hole at the end of the hot plate. Any illusion we had of this being a ‘normal’ dining experience extinguished, we relax, laugh and begin to enjoy it. Although I’m still not sure why it was just the girls.
With the next flourish, I understand why. The eggs are fused together into a giant pancake, rolled, chopped and flicked into the mouths of the male diners, one by one. I order another wine.
Putting gendered party games to one side for a minute, the food is wonderful. We start with some exceptionally juicy king prawns served on small pillows of spicy salmon. Then, tender beef steak bounces onto our plates straight from the chef’s tongs – there’s a hell of a lot of it, but it’s succulent, uncomplicated and hits the mark.
Our final meat is chicken – bitesize chunks grilled in sticky-sweet sauce – and we enjoy it all with bowls of egg fried rice and beansprouts. At every juncture, the chef is there with a deft flick of knife or wrist to entertain us as we eat, and by the time we sit back, waistbands under serious strain, there’s a definite feeling of friendship round the table – and it’s not just the wine, I promise.
Dessert – which we oblige to as it’s part of the set menu – arrives in the form of ice cream (choc, strawberry or vanilla, obv) or melon. I’m too full to really notice it by this point, but I challenge anyone not to grin when an ice cream sundae sits in front of you, and your evening has involved watching grown men try to catch flying pieces of fried egg in their mouths.
Overall, the Teppanyaki experience is damn cool. More of a one-off spectacle than a ‘let’s grab a bite out and catch up’, and the price tag is very steep for what you get (our bill topped a hundred quid, and we didn’t go wild on the drinks) but it is worth a visit. You just might not need to eat for a week.
Teppanyaki, Belgrave Hall, Belgrave Street, Leeds LS2 8DD
Teppanyaki is open from 6pm, Tuesday to Sunday.
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All scored reviews are unannounced, impartial, paid for by Confidential and completely independent of any commercial relationship. Venues are rated against the best examples of their type: 1-5: saw your leg off and eat it, 6-9: Netflix and chill, 10-11: if you're passing, 12-13: good, 14-15: very good, 16-17: excellent, 18-19: pure class, 20: cooked by God him/herself.
Starter platter 6, Salmon and King Prawn 8, Beef 8, Egg Fried Rice 5, Chicken 7, Ice Cream 5
Speedy, subtle, though slightly bored
Fun, energetic, sizzling – if that’s your thing