Teppan Grill “Icho”, Nara
May 17, 2010
On April 19, 2010, Linda and I had lunch with Tamoto-san at Icho (Ginko Nut), a teppanyaki restaurant in the new Nikko Hotel in Nara.
We started our day in Uji, a suburb of Kyoto on the way to Nara. The Byodo-in Temple there was the most beautiful that we saw in Japan. We also liked its excellent small museum and serene garden.
We went on to Nara, which was the capital of Japan in the 8th century. Other highlights of the morning were the Kasuga Shinto Shrine and the Shin-Yakushiji Temple of the Healing Buddha where we lit incense sticks for our friends who are in recovery.
We skipped the traditional restaurants and went to the thoroughly modern Icho, which Tamoto-san said was very good of its type. Teppanyaki cuisine started only about sixty years ago in Japan, but is part of the tradition, like sushi or tempura, of preparing and cooking in front of the diner seated at a counter and serving directly to him. The exaggerated showmanship one sees at some well known Teppanyaki restaurants isn’t present at places like Icho, which emphasize the food.
The appetizer was a little seafood salad.
Our piece of Japanese wagyu beef was presented, along with the fish for Tamoto-san’s fish teppanyaki.
Then the vegetables and tofus were presented along with two rectangles of bread.
The chef started cooking garlic slices in oil.
We were given three sauces and aromatic pepper for dipping.
The chef turned the vegetables and tofus.
They were served as the next course. Half of the beef was put on the hot iron plate for quick searing.
The toasted bread and garlic slices were put on our plate.
The beef was flamed, cut into bite sized pieces and put on the bread. (I was so eager to eat them I forgot a photo.)
The fatty trimmings of the beef were chopped and started cooking.
The bread was put back on the griddle; the other half of the beef was seared and flamed.
Fresh bean sprouts were put on the griddle, mixed with the well-rendered fatty beef pieces and served as the next course.
There was a traditional last course of rice, pickles and miso soup.
The lunch was very good. The high quality of the beef and eating it hot off the griddle made a big difference. The vegetables and tofus were good quality and cooked just enough. The imaginative bean sprout dish was really good. We had made an exception to our general plan of eating and drinking only Japanese and drank glasses of Australian Pinot Noir, which were just right.
Following lunch we went to the eighth-century Todaiji Temple, the largest wooden building in Japan, housing its largest bronze Buddha. Deer, which roam freely in Nara, are seeking food from the tourists and pilgrims in front of the main gate.