Ukai-tei, Ginza 銀座うかい亭
When i was checking my to-go list two months ago, i found that i've never had a real teppanyaki meal in Japan before. Among all the well-known teppanyaki restaurants in Tokyo, Ukai-tei is not doubt the most famous one. It was Michelin-1-starred but it unfortunately lose its only star in Michelin Guide Tokyo 2016.
Ukai-tei has two branches in center Tokyo, an oldder one in Ginza and a newer one in Omotesando. We visited its Ginza branch for dinner by the end of 2015.
I have heard a lot of people talking about the luxury interior as well as the fine serving ware at Ukai-tei. We felt the strong old-fashioned luxurious ambiance once we stepped into the restaurant, but to be honest it was quite old to me and not really comfortable for our liking. The restaurant can fits 92 diners at a time, besides the main teppanyaki counter, there are also several private teppanyaki rooms and a lounge for desserts.
Here at Ukai-tei, each group of guest have a private chef who prepares food in front of you.
There are 3 kinds of dinner menu to choose from, start from 17280 yen which includes a starter, your choice of seasonal starter, soup, seafood, steak, rice or noodle, and dessert with complimentart petit fours and coffee/tea. The differences between 17280 and the top-picked 19440 menu are the soup and seafood. In the later menu, abalone was served while the cheaper one uses seasonal fish. You can also enjoy the lavishly-produced specialities with chef's picks at 24840 JPY.
Each three of us had the 19k+ menu.
Ready for the show. Not only the chef's work, but also the serving ware. It was quite interesting that a lot of people at sit at the counter turned their plates around and checking the brand, to me it is....not acceptable.
A very aromatic and comfort dish to start with, the steamed egg itself was not very impressive but the black truffle made it up.
There are three dishes to choose from for our second course: Hirame, crab, and lobster, and we ordered one each. Hirame was fresh and clean, lobster was bouncy and has a sweet twist, but it was too tiny tho. I still love my Alaskan crab the best, it was the only hot appetizer among all three. It was very succulent and enhoyable. While i am not very happy with all these imported seafood, personally prefer local produce much over imported ones.
Followed by soup made with turnip cooked in soup stock. The turnip was smooth and mildly sweet, the soup was simple but very delicious. Turnip is usually served as a palate-clease dish, as well as leek. Yeah and we are ready for the main dishes.
Sourced from Aomori provience, the abalone was quite large in size and they are still moving. The way the chef cooks reminds me of Waku Ghin in Singapore, but at Waku Ghin, the seafood was baked on top of the salt. Here at Ukai-tei, the chef topped the abalone with slices of lemon, and wrapped them with seaweed, finally coverd with rock salt.
Before it was served, chef asked us whether we want the abalone liver. Why not? The deep-flavored abalone liver is not neccessarily worse than abalone itself.
Abalone teppanyaki was fresh and chewy, the sauce was very umami and perfect for bread pairing (which is actually served at the same time). While the texture was a bit tough for our liking, I loved the liver over abalone itself.
Just a sliced of standard French baguette, it was totally to a super crispy texture. Nothing special on it own but perfect with the abalone sauce.
The dish we (actually my partners, because i had the lobster instead) expected the most was the steak. Look at this marbled steak...so pretty. My partners decided to go with medium. Chef uses a lit olive oil for cooking, the sound and smoke were made us drooling. No additional flavors besides a pinch of salt were added to the steak, it is definitely served at its best.
According to both of my foodie friends, the steak was succulent and very flavorful. The balance between the fats and the lean part was perfect, rich in oils but not greasy. It was served with a bit black pepper and mustard on the side, as well as soy sauce, which you can serve with for your own preference. My firends just finished it without any extra condiments.
I had the lobster instead of beef because of digestive issues. But i am not a meat lover since i was a kid, seafood and fish are always my favrite animal protein. To me, it is much more delicious than any kinds of meat, and of course, a much healthier choice.
Lobster was awesome, very juicy and umami. The texture was much better than the lobster appetizer. Sauce was made of lobster stock which has a deep oceanic flavor and perfectly matches with the lobster.
For the starch dish, you may choose from fried rice or cold noodle soup. Two of us go with the signature fried rice, and one had the noodle. The quality of rice in Japan is definitely much high than any other countries in the world, the round pearl rice looks chewy and stick togheter. Chef burnt some soy sauce on the hot pan and mixed with the rice and minced garlic. It looks and smells really good, cannot wait to have it.
It was surprisingly not oily at all, each grain was perfectly cooked and nicely flavored with burnt soy sauce. Enjoyed the chewy texture with very simple but delcious tastes. The rice was served with light pickles and miso soup.
In comparison, the cold noodle soup is a bit boring. But if you are looking for a lighter and healthier grain dish, soup noodle is definitely a better choice.
Desserts are served at the lounge on the side. There are 5-6 options on the dessert menu, we got the chiffon cake and the signature mont blanc. Desserts also come with your choice of tea or coffee, at petit fours.
Unfortunately, chiffon was too large in size, quite dry and dence for our liking. Although the pairing strawberry and its compote with fresh cream were quite light, we were still unable to finish the whole thing. Actually we only bite a corner of the cake.
The mont blanc is certainly a safter choice, personally think it is better than most mont blanc i have had in Japan.The chestnut cream was smooth and flavorful, inside was iced and perfect as a after-teppanyaki dessert. Vanilla on the bottom was aromatic and well-balanced with the mont blanc.
A bit disappointing about the petit fours - how should three of us devide them? The raw chocolate was not bad though...
My first teppanyaki experience in Japan was not bad, but neither too impressive. Compare to teppanyaki in any other countries that heavily relies on saucing and flaving, teppanyaki in Japan is deifnitely much better than that - very simple flavoring that keeps the ingredients' best.
While, to me, teppanyaki is a very causual food that is hard to served as delicate as French or Kaiseki, as long as the ingredients are not too bad, and the chef was skilled, the food won't disappoint you. The service was just right to point, ambiance was relax, not hard to get a reservation, food was not bad. The bill came around 23,000 per head, but to honest, three of us (all girls) were not really stuffed. Thus i don't think it is very worth-of-value, at least in my opinion. I'd rather pay this amount for sushi or kaiseki or western cuisine.