Skilled chefs keep theatrics to a minimum at this neighbourhood veteran of the teppanyaki scene
At 7pm on a Friday, Armadale is a ghost town. The walk up High Street towards Glenferrie Road past shut boutiques selling gaudy wedding attire, dental clinics and a string of vacant restaurants is unlikely to inspire confidence. But all that changes as you approach Aya Teppanyaki – an absolute hive of activity on this otherwise quiet strip.
We’re surprised that a teppanyaki restaurant is almost devoid of any Japanese paraphernalia, bar a few worn-out fabrics, but that esteemed Japanese hospitality is front and centre, with wait staff courteously greeting you as soon as you enter and steering you to one of the teppanyaki grills, each seating up to seven, ready to go with crockery and a sauce set of ponzu, chilli mayo and sesame.
For the best value order a set menu that range from affordable to luxe depending on the types of meat and seafood included. The most basic, Komusubi ($42.50) comes with prawns, chicken and beef, while the pricier Shogun ($78.80) has lobster tail, cod, duck and waguy beef. There are also strictly vegetarian options and kids under ten can feast for $25.
In the middle range, the Sekiwake set ($52.50) kicks things off with thick, fresh cuts of kingfish, salmon and tuna sashimi; chilled waguy beef tataki; a small tangy salad; and a slightly oversalted but pleasantly rich miso soup.
At this point the chef makes his entrance, introduces himself and begins cooking on the griddle in front of you. Good thing you’ve had those entrees because the aroma that wafts off the grill from the cooking meat would otherwise be torturous. A procession of dishes soon follows – two scallops, a salmon fillet, a jumbo prawn, chicken and beef (you can upgrade to waguy for $5). The meat, sourced from a local supplier, is the star here (there’s no cheating with this type of dining), mostly seasoned with butter, salt, pepper and a light soy sauce to allow the natural flavours to dominate.
Scallops don’t spend long on the grill: they’re juicy, seared morsels with a slight chewiness. You’ll wish for more of that melt-in-the-mouth salmon, lightly scorched and perked up with a drop of soy, while the tender chunks of chicken thigh (basted with a thick teriyaki marinade after cooking) are a winning combo of sweet, charry and velvety soft. The duck breast, part of the Meat Lovers’ and Shogun Sets, is served skin-on with a sweet miso glaze and a sprinkling of sesame seeds that balances out its layer of fat. The lamb cutlet, also part of Meat Lovers’ or Yokozuna Sets, is juicy and lean, with a nice smacking of char from time over the strongest flames.
And now time for the show. Unless you demur, raw eggs, pieces of omelette and bowls filled with rice come flying at you. It’s all a bit of retro fun. For the finale the chef conjures up the kind of ceiling-high fire beloved by kids and pyromaniacs.
They do a mean fried rice: slightly al dente and flecked with spring onion and wafer-thin omelette and drizzled with soy. Let it be your finale rather than the underwhelming ice cream, or finish off on a Japanese-themed cocktail (Japanese Slipper, Osaka Sunset, Jade Martini), a steal at $12. When it comes to good clean fun after hours in Armadale, teppanyaki provides the goods, providing you can dodge the eggs.
|Venue name:||Aya Teppanyaki|
|Opening hours:||Mon-Thu 6-11pm; Fri noon-3pm, 6-11pm; Sat noon-3pm, 5.30-11pm; Sun noon-3pm, 6-11pm|