You’ve probably walked past the inn a hundred times and never clocked the signage. Wedged between the Regent Theatre and a retail store on the Paris end of Collins Street is Melbourne’s first teppanyaki-style restaurant. Established in 1975, Japanese Teppanyaki Inn is still going strong even after Facebook, Zomato, Yelp, Instagram, Snapchat FOMO have shifted the limelight.
But who exactly is going to Japanese Teppanyaki Inn? The answer is everyone. After finding the entrance, you are greeted at the front desk by a kimono-clad host and led into a lounged waiting area for refreshments while your other guests arrive. Here, you’ll see young couples on first dates, families, corporate-dressers and groups of bros ready to chow down. It’s a dark, soft room – they’re bucking against the bright lights, neon signs, banging tunes and party vibes of today’s restaurants and they’re proud of it. It feels like a restaurant stuck in time, and thankfully, so are their prices.
House cocktails will set you back a mere $18 in a city where the standard cost of a drink now sits in the $20-$25 mark; we’re taking gin Martinis, the ubiquitous flavoured “Martinis” (espresso and lychee), Black Russians, Cosmopolitans and the like. Carafes of sake listed with well considered tasting notes and suggestions on whether to drink them cold, room temperature or warm also clock in at a wallet-friendly $15-$28. The wine list focusses on Australian and New Zealand with bottles ranging from $39 to $250 for big spenders.
Teppanyaki here doesn’t come with a show, egg flips, oil fires or any of that tacky flair, but instead, demure, respectful service with attentive care towards the naked ingredients. Your white shirt will be safe so long as your chopstick skills are on point. You can order items individually, which will also carry a surcharge of $10 for a “sauce set” consisting of sweet soy and a sesame paste. After a quick calculation, it is better value to order set courses with a focus on land or sea, but the whole table doesn’t have to do the same thing if you want the best of both worlds. Set menus receive sides of mushroom, potatoes, scallops, prawns, stir-fried bean shoots and spinach and their main meat of choice, whereas individual items come on their own, without any of the fun accompaniments. Chefs are happy to share items across the table if requested. You will be asked at the beginning of service if you’re a garlic fan. Trust us: the answer is yes. You’ll receive garlic chips fried at the table throughout your dinner that taste sweetly roasted and don’t carry the pungent burn. Plus, they go with everything.
Japanese Teppanyaki Inn may be the restaurant that time forgot, but Melbourne hasn’t forgotten it. With excellent service and execution and prices stuck in the 20th century, you can see why it is still so popular, even if no one is making noise about it.