Teppanyaki done right at Sumikawa
First there was Vintage Cave, with its $300 per person set menu. Then Sushi Ginza Onodera with its $160 to $250 per person omakase.
Was Honolulu ready for such pricey dining experiences, with no cheaper alternative? Other restaurants may have offered similar set menus, but also offered a la carte options for those who could only afford a trio of appetizers or so.
There is also the question of value. We've all had experiences in which the quality was not commensurate to the steep price.
Yet, I feel both these restaurants deliver on quality and experience, and there are enough in town who agree, who have made a sister Ginza restaurant possible.
With its exceptional quality, presentation and service, Sushi Ginza Onodera has become a trusted destination for sushi aficionados, and the company has full intention to do the same with teppanyaki at the newly open Teppanyaki Ginza Sumikawa.
I have to admit I still had some doubts when I heard the company was opening a teppanyaki restaurant with similar price points to Onodera. I think many of us are acquainted with the idea of the high-price sushi bar. But when it comes to teppanyaki, the American experience is most closely associated with Benihana of Tokyo and its founder’s emphasis on fun and entertainment above all, making it a sort of Chuck E. Cheese party place for adults.
In Japan, teppanyaki is taken much more seriously. Even so, I couldn't fathom a $250 per person teppanyaki meal when I still imagined itty bitty morsels of beef and shrimp. To pay just $100 for two people still seems like a lot for that.
Well, consider me a believer now. All my doubts dissipated with each mouthful at Sumikawa, and it was with a spirit of zen, reverence and awe that I watched the chefs work their magic.
There are no knife tricks here, no turning a chef's toque into a basket for catching flying morsels of shrimp, and no onion volcanoes spouting steam. There is only the clean, deft grilling of meat, seafood, shellfish and preparation of sauces in just the right measure, before your eyes.
Of interest to gourmands is the focus on the quality of ingredients, such that sauce or dressings don’t distract from the essence of the meat and seafood. I don’t expect everyone to understand or appreciate this. I watch too many people dump ketchup or shoyu on food before even tasting it, and note that many are fond of heavy sauces and gravies that I think have a masking effect on food. Those who understand this will have no qualms about paying the asking price here.
Teppanyaki Ginza Sumikawa is at 1726 S. King St., past Punahou, between Elsie and Pawaa Lanes, and is open from 5:30 to 9:30 p.m. Tuesdays through Sundays. Set menu prices are $200, $225 or $250 per person. As in Japan, no gratuity policy. Call (808) 784-0567.
Nadine Kam is Style Editor and staff restaurant critic at the Honolulu Star-Advertiser; her coverage is in print on Wednesdays and Thursdays. Contact her via email at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow her on Twitter, Instagram and Rebel Mouse.