Open kitchens are all the rage these days, but the Japanese have long been ahead of the game when it comes to the theatrics of interactive dining. Whether you want to watch blades move at dizzying speed across a grill or watch flames climb high into the air while you test your hand-eye coordination, teppanyaki is where it’s at. From the refined to the raucous, we’ve put together a list of Melbourne's best.
Melbourne's best teppanyaki
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. 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 – it feels like a restaurant stuck in time, and thankfully, so are their prices.
On a balmy Sunday night, Koko is packed to the rafters within an hour of opening. Diners are seated around large steel hotplates, where the teppanyaki chefs showcase their skills, or individual tables if they choose to order off the al a carte menu. To get to their table, certain diners are required to nimbly manoeuvre the stepping stones in a rock pool that sits at the centre of the restaurant – wear stilettos at your peril. Ensconced on the third floor of Crown Towers, Koko is as sleek and sophisticated as the luxury hotel that houses it, and the prices reflect this – set menus start at $100 a head and max out at $198.
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. 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.
For the last 20 years, Ginza in Chinatown has been doing teppanyaki, that theatrical style of dining involving Japanese barbecue, nifty knife skills, utensil juggling, food hurling and pyrotechnics. It was big in the ’90s, and Ginza has maintained the decor from those heady days with its maroon-and-charcoal colour scheme and well-worn carpet. But the restaurant itself is spacious and comfortable, with floor-to-ceiling windows looking out onto Little Bourke Street. Teppanyaki set menus start at $16 for lunch and $49 for dinner (you get more for dinner) where your choice of protein – beef, fish, chicken or squid – comes with miso soup, fried rice and vegetables.
More ace Melbourne eats this way
Unless you have the metabolism of a nine-year-old, and the finances of a Kardashian, you never stand a chance against Melbourne's ferocious dining machine. The openings just don't stop and ain't nobody got time to keep on top of what's what. Except us, that is. So behold, our eat-and-destroy list – a guide to Melbourne's 50 best restaurants.