Before kitchen counter dining became an acceptable (and at certain places preferable) way to eat, teppanyaki was how curious diners got up close to the action. And at Jugemu and Shimbashi the tradition continues. In fact, it's dual dining; one side a traditional soba house specialising in house-made buckwheat noodles, served hot or cold, in a savoury, salty broth. Walk into the other entrance and you will enter their teppanyaki restaurant, with dark wooden slats and an eight seater teppanyaki grill in the back. For those willing to bring home a little smoke - be it in your hair or on your clothes - scoring a seat around the teppan (dinner only) means you're in for a treat.
Fat, roeless Japanese scallops are dropped onto the searing grill before being doused in garlic butter and placed back in their shell, with their bounce and juices still intact. You'll fall just a little bit in love with your bandana wearing, spatula weaving, teppan warrior when he scoops the remains of the bubbling garlic butter from the griddle - in one clean swoop - and pours it back over your shellfish.
The eggplant with miso could do with a little more time on the griddle – it’s still soft but not as sticky or as caramelised as we hoped. Wagyu fans will be pleased to see their meat before it's cooked – you know that the white marbling is destined to melt through the cut and fill your mouth with that fatty, savoury steak flavour that shines brightest with a cleansing Orion on tap to sip between bites.
Be warned this is teppanyaki without the dramatics (no food throwing here). They take their mastery of searing and sealing very seriously, and so do you as the courteous observer...consider the metal splash screens a “do not disturb” sign. Even the okonomiyaki (cabbage pancake) has its own dedicated chef who can juggle up to five at a time. Go for the umami rich okonomiyaki special: prawns, calamari, scallops and pork belly. Shallots and squiggles of Japanese Worcestershire and mayonnaise finish off the messy masterpiece that comes ready for shovelling with its own mini teppan spatula.
This is eye-catching eating with clear origins (sorry fusion fans) and a wholesome, family atmosphere. If you're on a first date we recommend sitting in the restaurant section, and if you can't handle the heat, chill out over at the soba side of Shimbashi. But for retro thrills, aim for the grill-side seats.