Teppanyaki Kyoto has Japanese food that's more varied than most Americans may expect
There's more to Japanese food than sushi and steak, not that you'd know from the menus of most local Japanese restaurants. There has to be, right? Sushi's not great breakfast food, for example.
Now there's edible proof in Pittsburgh, at last. Teppanyaki Kyoto, a small, new restaurant in Highland Park's subtly expanding restaurant row, barely has a visible sign in English out front.
Owner Kevin Chen is originally from Taiwan, and worked in Chinese restaurants in Pittsburgh for more than a decade. When he decided to open his own place, he wanted to do something different from the tried-and-true Chinese and Japanese restaurants in Pittsburgh.
“I wanted to have a restaurant, but there's enough Chinese restaurants in Pittsburgh,” he says. “I made sushi before, but I feel like it doesn't have anything different (to offer), and it's difficult to get the fish. I wanted to make different Japanese food. My wife is Japanese. I traveled to Japan and tried to find the food that I liked, that I could bring back.”
He worked and ate in Kyoto and Tokyo for about nine months, gradually collecting dishes that would work here, and some that sparked ideas of his own. Hearty, filling dishes like okonomiyaki and teppanyaki became the focus.
Teppanyaki is simply a style of food cooked on a teppan, a type of iron griddle. Okonomiyaki is basically a pancake made with egg and cabbage, topped with various meats and/or seafood, and a spicy mayonnaise. Simple, savory, filling, yet quite different.
Teppanyaki Kyoto offers a long, slim sliver of a dining room, with a counter, grill and open kitchen along one side — sort of like a Japanese diner.
The relentless tidiness and uncluttered minimalism that most Japanese-American restaurants shoot for is ably replicated here: Lots of wood, some bamboo stalks at the entrance, a table and pillows for dining on the floor in the Japanese fashion in the back. The back rooms went unused on a recent day, even as the rather-limited seating in front filled up fast.
Service is fast and friendly, though okonomiyaki takes about 25 minutes or so to make, so don't expect street-food speed.
Some of the strongest, most distinctive flavors arrive with the appetizers. The Bacon with Japanese Mochi ($6) wraps bacon around a soft, sticky mochi rice cake, topped with shredded nori (seaweed). The bacon flavor is strong, even overwhelming, and the chewy nature of mochi keeps its flavor going in your mouth for quite awhile. Although bacon is going into everything these days (candy bars, ice cream), this combo works.
“I opened a Japanese restaurant in America,” Chen says. “This is Japanese and American style together — American bacon with Japanese mochi, with soy sauce.”
The Okonomiyaki ($9) comes in several regional variations. For vegetarians, the Kyoto Mix is the way to go, with tofu, mochi and corn. The Tokyo Mix features shrimp, squid and pork on top. The Osaka Mix features shrimp, squid and beef. Bonito fish flakes, seaweed powder, and regular or hot mayo come standard on all variations, though you can opt out of some, or get it on the side.
The hot mayonnaise tends to be a little overpowering, applied liberally in a grid-like pattern to a just-grilled pancake. It's also delicious, but you may want less, depending on your tolerance for spiciness.
Hiroshimayaki ($11) is a bit different, with yakisoba noodles layered in the pancake, any meat (add $1) and a fried egg on top, giving it a breakfast-for-dinner feel.
Most Americans associate mochi with ice cream, if they have any associations at all. Luckily, there is mochi ice cream ($2) on the menu — egg-size pods of ice cream surrounded by chewy rice cake. Go for the green tea instead of strawberry or mango, flavors that are easy to find elsewhere.
Michael Machosky is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Vermont’s Sanders considers run for president
- Steelers not receiving big returns on their offseason investments
- Rossi: Given start, it’s time for Pitt to finish
- AHL overtime rules create some confusion for Penguins prospects
- Rare triple play sparks Pirates’ comeback victory over Cubs
- NFL notebook: Jamaal Charles injures ankle vs. Broncos
- Pitt notebook: Expanded game plan likely awaits Iowa
- Crash closes part of Route 30 in Unity
- Man accidentally shoots himself in North Point Breeze
- Long wait is over for Apollo-Ridge girls soccer team
- Funt, Bialik keep ’em smiling on ‘Camera’