Keyakizaka

Food & Drink - October 5th, 2007
Keyakizaka

It took some effort to find Keyakizaka, a modern teppanyaki restaurant that is also the newest dining outlet at the Grand Hyatt Tokyo. We took the elevator up to Oak Door and an attendant kindly led us out the other way and down a flight of stairs to our destination, so discretely tucked away between floors that I would never have guessed it was there. The hunt for the elusive restaurant was worth it, though. We found ourselves in a Japanese-Western fusion space that was both intimate and grand, with sparkling teppanyaki surfaces, beautiful wooden countertops adorned with rows of orange linen napkins, and colorful fruits and vegetables on display like accessories in a fancy boutique.

“This is the kind of place foreigners would love,” I remember saying to my husband, because you feel a sense of Japan but in a most comfortable, if not rather dazzling, way.

“This is the kind of place foreigners on expense accounts would love,” he corrected me. He had already been perusing the not inexpensive menu while I was still rhapsodizing about the appetizing atmosphere.

Keyakizaka attempts a novel and rather ambitious undertaking: to cook practically every dish of a multicourse menu teppan-style, so that raw ingredients are placed before you and then prepared and served within minutes as you watch every step. It must fluster the chefs somewhat. But, for diners, it’s certainly fun and practically a step-by-step cooking course in itself—so consider the bill as the cost for a private tutorial and a meal.

We chose two different kinds of tasting menus, priced at ¥18,900 and ¥22,000 respectively. To start, our chef for the evening showed off some large fruit tomatoes, which he cooked lightly with basil, olive oil, shrimp and a bit of balsamic vinegar to make a tasty, warm salad. Then he mixed lightly seared tuna with sesame oil, garlic and soy sauce for a Korean-style tuna tartare. Next came large stalks of white asparagus, which he grilled for a few seconds and then served with a sour sauce of red orange sabayon.

Afterwards came the highlights of the evening. First, a choice cut of foie gras, warmed on the grill and then served with caramelized fig. Then live abalone was sauteed and placed on a bed of mustard greens, while sole was steamed via an ingenious use of plates on the grill. Finally, we were given two cuts of meat from Imari and Iga, two southern Japan cities not normally associated with fine beef, thereby giving a hint of the exotic and unusual. The Iga beef was particularly tender and flavorful. Both were then flambéed and served with a choice of tomato sauce or a sesame and miso sauce.

Of course, the restaurant was in its element with the teppanyaki steaks, so these were probably some of the best I’ve had in recent memory. The two types of rice that came afterwards—grilled rice with sea urchin and quail egg, and fried rice with tiny crunchy shrimps—were better to look at than to eat. We so enjoyed watching the chef cook these.

Almost everything was enjoyable and tasty enough though for a delightful evening of dramatic, impressive cooking on a single grill. In fact, the only thing I would change on the menu is the raisin pancake dessert, which arrived nicely combined with ice cream and caramelized apples, but thick, heavy and more appropriate in size for a morning meal to get you going. “If I were you, I would make these into thin, little pancakes instead,” I said to the manager, on the way out. It was too early for breakfast after all.

Keyakizaka
Grand Hyatt Tokyo, 6-10-3 Roppongi, Minato-ku
Tel. 03-4333-1234