Restaurant News & Reviews

Ginza delivers, on both sides

Do you suffer from teppanyaki tedium?

It's a little-known disorder, but more common than you might think among those who frequent Japanese steakhouses. Symptoms include involuntary cringing at the sight of an otherwise good piece of beef getting overcooked to a fare-thee-well; stifling a yawn at a hibachi chef show you've seen so many times it's like watching a standup comic's routine where you already know all the punch lines; and a repressed desire to be seated at the sushi bar. I've suffered from this insidious ailment for years, and I can sympathize.

Better yet, I've discovered the cure. OK, my wife discovered the cure, if you must know. We were seated at a teppanyaki table at Ginza, watching the chef go through his routine. I was absorbed in my usual thoughts ("Let's see, next he's going to make a volcano out of stacked onion rings, then he'll ...") when my wife gave me a gentle nudge and directed my attention to a small boy sitting across the table. I saw his face just in time to watch his eyebrows shoot skyward in reaction to the sushi chef's igniting of the onion ring "volcano." My teppanyaki tedium was instantly cured. From that point on, I happily watched the show through the eyes of that little boy.

I couldn't swear to it, but I'm pretty sure it wasn't just my upbeat mood that made the actual eating of that meal more enjoyable than at any Japanese steakhouse in recent memory. I can say objectively that the filet was tender and cooked as close to the requested medium-rare as is possible, given the cooking method. The lobster and chicken (we'd ordered the Kanpai combo for two) were respectable, too.

By the end of the meal, I'd forgiven the puddle of water at the bottom of our salad bowls at the beginning. And who cared that the fried rice and stir-fried veggies were pretty much the same as at every other Japanese steakhouse? Or, for that matter, that the sushi roll we'd ordered as an appetizer didn't arrive until midway through the meal?

The Japanese steakhouse is only half of the Ginza story, however. I checked out the other half on a different night, when my wife and I ate in the sleek, contemporary dining room on the opposite side of the restaurant. And while the mood that night was as grown-up and serene as it had been kid-friendly and animated in the hibachi room, the food was similarly rewarding.

An appetizer order of beef tataki produced buttery slices of filet, barely seared at the edges, garnished with chopped scallion and attractively arranged in a circle around a small dish of ponzu dipping sauce. Tempura shrimp and vegetables could be faulted only for a batter that was a shade too thick and bready under an otherwise textbook light crust.

For our main course, we indulged in the sushi love boat for two (I did say the mood was "grown-up," didn't I?). The boat sailed into port on our tabletop a few minutes after appetizers were cleared, a 2-foot wooden vessel whose deck was covered from stem to stern with sushi and sashimi. For those interested in specifics, here's the bill of lading: 12 pieces of nigiri sushi (two each of six varieties); nine pieces of sashimi (three each of tuna, flounder and salmon, the last of these artfully folded like pink rose petals in a martini glass); four pieces of California roll; and one house specialty roll of chef's choice (in our case, the Dragon) -- an inside-out roll filled with tempura shrimp and topped with eel and avocado. With the exception of a couple of pieces of fish that were a bit dry, everything was commendably fresh.

In short, the food isn't likely to disappoint, whichever side of the restaurant you choose. And if you're seeking a cure for teppanyaki tedium, I can't think of a better place than Ginza.

It's in Cary, after all. Even if you don't have your own small children to bring along, there's apt to be a good supply on hand.