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Restaurant review: If you knew sushi...

Sapporo Teppanyaki is a roaring success and packing the punters in. But where's it at? Angie Sammons finds out

Written by . Published on January 14th 2010.


Restaurant review: If you knew sushi...

I get suspicious of restaurants that tout themselves as authentic this, authentic that. Authentic how? And to whom?

It only takes one know-all, the sort who goes on holiday to Sicily, to go into some impossibly plush Italian up the road here, sniffily report that it ain't genuine and the whole fable of the gingham table comes crashing down. And what about those one-time backpackers back from India, reminding you that you'd never find a tikka in Tamil Nadu?

I occupy the latter camp of killjoys. I lived in Tokyo for quite a while – once - and, upon my very unhappy return, could tell anyone who'd listen of my hatred for beancurd, how a fish would always taste better cooked than rolled up raw in seaweed, and of my loathing of loaves, innocently bought, that would reveal horrid, dark, mystery matter when sliced open (no, I couldn't read the bloody label).

And yet there is so much to love about Japanese food. Its appeal to the senses was never wasted on me, even back then. I slurped miso soup (dodging the tofu), tucked in at station noodle stands and hung out at tonkatsu bars with the best of them, cherry blossom floating down into endless foaming steins of Asahi and thimbles of sake (it would have been rude not to), somehow losing three of those Daily Mail frock sizes, and whole weeks, in the process.

So when it came to trekking to Sapporo Teppanyaki in Duke Street - or the East Village as some wag has named it – there were reservations, and not of the book-a-table kind.

It couldn't be the real deal: for a start, back in the Rising Sun land, you never get a restaurant doing sushi, tempura, sashimi, teriyaki, noodles and yakitori all under the same roof. Not like here. There, chefs prefer to tackle only one of these staples of Japanese cuisine. They make it the sole discipline of their establishment, and throw themselves at its shrine.

Even your cheapest Nippon nibbles strive to pleasure their diners' senses. So you get exquisite colour and assembly on the plate, harmonies of continuing tastes and textures, bland protein set alight by every fiery means. Japanese cuisine is all elegance, refinement and understated delicacy.

Sapporo Teppanyaki was banging the night we visited. Several parties of ladies were in, doing what only a lady from these parts can do: enjoy a night on the town after sharing a bottle of vodka, in someone's house, and the ghd straighteners to warm things up.

Tables were full. Some sang, some shrieked, some wandered about the room, standing up with the chefs and sitting down again around one of the many grilling stations.

Now and again, a chorus of “Ohmigod!” rang out: it would not be dress sizes being dropped tonight. In Japan, such unreserved behaviour is reserved just for men. But, hey, fun was in the air.

For Sapporo Teppanyaki is all about theatre. Punters are seated on stools around a large table. At the centre, a grill with its own foreman. Starters come from the kitchen and, while you munch, all eyes are on the main man as he prepares the main course. You might choose chicken, so here comes a raw slab of it. It is lashed onto the grill with your neighbours' fish and beef.

Meanwhile, your man tosses eggs, shakes jars and chucks implements up in the air to dramatic effect. Anyone for spin the bottle, ladies? The show culminates in a massively generous shake of the brandy over extreme heat and BOOM! Dinner is served.

Mixed vegetable tempura (£4.95) was not cooked at the table but suffered no ill effects from its journey from the kitchen. Squash, courgette, asparagus, carrot and aubergine were encased in the most angelic batter I've tasted in years. The vegetables had the texture of having been blanched first, not how its traditionally done, but it was tasty enough. A light chilli marmalade, dark and light soy sauce and a horseradish mayonnaise came for dipping. No eye-watering wasabi (pure horseradish) for us. Hot chilli prawns (£6.95) was perfectly good.

Rice, on which the East has marched since the beginning of time, was given the egg-fried treatment, and “Sapporo potatoes” (sauteed spuds) were another Anglo addition.

But the place is none the worse for any of this. So what if purists are forced to leave their lily white robes at the door?

Before us, a delicate and generous monkfish tail (£16.75) was prepared, and presented swiftly and artfully.Sirloin steak teriyaki (£16.95) was a tougher call. Teriyaki is a mirin (wine) sugar, soy sauce, and sake marinade, and yet this particular cut remained a little hard on the jaw.

Service was cheery and efficient, and, clearly at home serving raucous Tokyo salarymen, Yuki, our waitress-in-exile, plied us with drinks. It is not often in the UK that a waiter will tell you: “You would like another bottle of Gewürztraminer now?” But the real deal she certainly was. At night she dreams of home.

Sapporo Teppanyaki is doing plenty that works and you should go. Theatricals aside, it's much more than a flash in the pan.

Rating:15/20
Breakdown:7/10 Food
4/5 Service
4/5 Atmosphere
Address:Sapporo Teppanyaki,
134 Duke Street East Village
Liverpool
L1 5AG.
0151 705 3005
Bill for two including drinks and service: £107

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GordoJune 8th 2007.

There is one of these in Manchester as well which i can recommend. Good piece this Angie, better than mine!

PeterJune 8th 2007.

Been to the one in Manchester on a number of occasions, including the opening night...brilliant!!

Lindsey O'RourkeJune 8th 2007.

I have eaten several times in sapporo Teppanyaki. We love it and especially like to go for parties and sometimes after work. It's much better than any chinese restaurant in the nearby area. You get entertained and the service is always friendly and the food always good. This means we will always go back and we tell our friends. Love u!

stevie gJune 8th 2007.

haven't been for ages. It might be an English take on Japanese, but I suppose all the Chinese restaurants in Liverpool are too. You'd never get your hen parties ordering a main course of beef penis in a Liverpool Chinese restaurant. On second thoughts, maybe you would!

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