Dinner is a SHOW

Kaika Teppanyaki Asian Fusion has around for a while, but has never really been on my radar—maybe for good reason. I decided to give it a go this weekend. It’s up to you to decide whether to follow suit.

We went for the teppanyaki table, which is the most fun you can have at an Asian restaurant. Birthdays are always exciting at the grilling table; there’s usually lots of fire and the chef always puts on a show. Feeling in the mood to have one foot on land and one in the sea, we ordered chicken ($15) and salmon ($18). Both entrées included soup, rice, veggies and noodles. All the sides were agreeable, but the proteins were a little disappointing. The chicken was a bit sweeter than salty, more like a teriyaki than soy. I’d skip the salmon next time and either go straight for the meat or the teppankai veggies—which are sometimes the best part. On the positive side, the portions are quite large; you can definitely get two meals out of an entrée.

As I looked at my plate of food that had just been prepared before my eyes, it dawned on me that somehow we’ve taken something that should be, by all rights, good for you: a plateful of rice, veggies and a protein. But we’ve hit it with some good ol’ America-ness by slathering it with butter, oil and soy … and … and, honestly, it’s delicious. OK? Certainly nowhere near healthful, but no one makes veggies like a chef at a Japanese grilling table.

After my “traditional” hibachi dinner, I was curious about the difference between teppanyaki and hibachi. Teppanyaki translates to “grilling on an iron plate.” Hibachi translates to “brazier,” or an open grate, charcoal or gas, flamed-style grill. The flat grill of teppanyaki is more efficient for cooking the variety of food you’ve come to expect from hibachi along with your noodles, rice, veggies and chicken. While they have two different meanings in Japan, Americans often use them interchangeably. Whatever the proper term, I’m on board; I’ve had some really good hibachi/teppanyaki!

If, unlike most people, you don’t enjoy the drama and flavor of the grilling table, order from a variety of sushi rolls and a happy hour menu with drink and food specials. I tested the dumplings ($3), roti ($2), and haru maki (spring rolls) ($2). I gotta say, these were rather sad happy hour bites; the three little gyoza-style pork dumplings were probably the best. The peanut-y, five-spice sauce that accompanied the limp roti was thick and the taste combo didn’t work for me. The little spring rolls were inexcusably pale and cold.

If you’re looking for a fun night out, the grilling table is terrific fun, and they put on a good show. But if you’re ordering from the dinner menu, I say skip it and make some frozen gyoza and try your hand with stir-fry at home.