Once upon a time, we had as many Japanese restaurants as there were non-rainy days in Vancouver during Spring. All of a sudden, starting in the late 80's, we saw a gradual increase. The same could be said for Izakayas. Guu on Thurlow started the trend over a decade ago. More recently we all know about the Ramen craze... So what about Teppanyaki? If we are gonna go all out Japanese-style in the GVRD, why are there so few Teppanyaki joints? Of course there is the well-known Kobe to go along with Osaka and Yokohama (as well as a handful of smaller places). So what's the deal here? Does it have something to do with the price? Familiarity? Or possibly the joints we have just don't do it justice? All of the above? Well, having just been to Kobe in the past year, I realized that the lack of competition doesn't exactly encourage these restaurants to do more than the minimum. With that in mind, I was hesitant when I laid eyes on a Groupon for Gyu Teppanyaki way back in December 2011. Yet, I figured that it was worth a shot since it seemed like a good deal.
So for $49.00, we got a 10-course Teppanyaki meal for 2. Nothing on the menu completely matches what we got, but the Superior Value Course comes pretty close (take away the sashimi and black cod, add filet of chicken and prawns). Before we barely settled in, we were presented with the first 2 courses being the Green Salad and Lobster Miso Soup. The salad was well... a salad with a typical Japanese sweet ginger dressing with a dollop of sweet mayo on top. Nothing particularly exciting, but it did the job. As for the miso soup, it was essentially lobster brains and shell that made up the flavour of the broth. Therefore, it did have a natural sweetness about it and that lobster essence. It was a bit ugly-looking, but I liked it.
For our first grill item, we had the live half Lobster which was prepared quite nicely. It was a touch past cooked, yet it was well-seasoned and its natural sweetness still stood out. We had a selection of 3 dipping sauces including lemon, ginger dressing and sweet chili. The chef also provided us with a dollop of XO sauce as well. Up next was the Prawns, which were also just ever-so-slightly past done. Ignore the black cod in the picture as it was for a different party. The prawns still had a nice snap to them despite being overdone. For me personally, I like my seafood just done or barely done. That way, the texture is at its optimum as well as the flavours. Then came the Beef Tenderloin which was made to our personal doneness preferences. Viv and I asked for medium-rare and what we ended up with was a little closer to medium. With that in mind, the meat was still super moist and tender. Moving along, we had the Thin Ribeye Roll which had copious amounts of fried garlic chips and chopped green onion. The beef was barely cooked which kept it moist and tender. The large amount of garlic and onions added plenty of flavour.
While we were eating the beef roll, the Chicken was receiving its final touches of sauce. When I bit into the meat, it was once again a bit past just done. Hence, it was not super moist nor juicy. It was not dry either, but again, my preference is for just done. Then the chef brought out a plate of rice with raw beef, onions, carrots and a few eggs. We immediately knew he was gonna make Fried Rice. That he did and it was decent. The rice was a bit butchered from all the pressing with the spatulas, yet it was still chewy. The rice could've stood for less seasoning as it was a touch salty. Lastly, we had some Veggies in the form of cabbage, broccoli and enoki mushrooms. Nothing amiss here. The veggies weren't too overcooked, so there was still some texture.
To finish off the meal, we had a choice of ice cream. We got one scoop of the mango and green tea each. They were a bit icy, but did the job. As a whole, the meal was actually quite pleasant, especially at the price we paid. If we didn't have a Groupon, it would be considered fairly pricey even for the food we received. Now the draw of teppanyaki is not purely about the food. It is for the entertainment factor. This is where Gyu falls flat, literally and figuratively. Despite being very pleasant and attentive, the staff, including the teppanyaki chef could've passed for robots. No emotion, no nothing. There was no "show" to speak of. No onion volcano, no rapid slicing and dicing, no egg tricks and no entertainment value at all. It makes Kobe look like a Broadway musical in comparison. I've seen more action at Koji in shopping mall food courts. Too bad really since the service was quite good and courteous. It just needs an injection of personality. Also, I've seen a lot of complaints about the auto-gratuity on Groupon redemptions. Although I am not a proponent of auto-gratuity (especially when not forewarned), I feel it is fine in this case. Reason being is that many people do actually not tip the correct amount (before discount) on these types of offers. Therefore, the servers suffer by no fault of their own. Considering we got pretty good service, I felt it was fair and warranted. However, it would've been nice to be notified of that beforehand.
- Attentive and courteous service
- Food is okay
- No teppanyaki show whatsoever, a real big problem for a teppanyaki restaurant
- Expensive (if you didn't have a coupon)