The team at Black Sheep Restaurants has long been fascinated by teppanyaki, a third-culture cuisine with strong influences from both Japan and the US. While Hong Kong has a long history of teppanyaki restaurants, if you are unfamiliar with its origin story, here is a quick overview:
Teppanyaki comes from the Japanese ‘teppan’ (iron plate) and ‘yaki’ (grill), so at its core, teppanyaki is food cooked on a flat top iron grill. Origins are usually credited to Shigeji Fujioka of the Kobe restaurant, Misono, in 1945 after WW2, with many Americans still stationed in Japan, and Kobe the nation’s largest port. At first, local Japanese diners did not take to teppanyaki, but Westerners found in it a cooking style that was recognisable. Over time, Japanese chefs became increasingly enamoured with French cooking and Nouvelle Cuisine, applying this discipline to teppanyaki and really elevating it to an art form. Increasingly influenced by the West, Japanese people began to eat more beef and teppanyaki became progressively more refined as its popularity grew.
Over in the US, teppanyaki (viewed as a Japanese dining experience) became synonymous with the chain Benihana founded by Rocky Aoki. Rocky’s true skill was for entertainment, as an amateur wrestler, powerboat racer, softcore porn magazine founder – he had a natural flair for dramatics. His version of teppanyaki was about packaging ‘Japanese food’ in a way that Americans would find palatable and in a format they would trust, making it a performance where food flew through the air and chefs performed tricks to delight diners. Dinner became a destination, a place to take a hot date, it was flamboyant, entertaining and it always felt like a special occasion.
Crown Super Deluxe, melds the best of both worlds; all the refinement and luxury of Kobe ‘steakhouse’ but with a dash of Rocky Aoki’s American dream.
Stepping into the main dining room of Crown Super Deluxe is a trip back in time to teppanyaki’s heyday when bigger and flashier was better. The main dining lounge features three teppans, with custom interior elements created to give the sense of sashaying into ‘60s Tokyo. Golden onyx counters, mustard velvet mid-century inspired armchairs, plush purple carpet and brushed gold chandeliers are complemented by a playlist that seamlessly transitions from experimental jazz to iconic porn groove and funk classics including hits by Earth, Wind & Fire and Parliament.
While every teppan is manned by at least one chef, heading up the team is Chef Toru Takano, a teppanyaki veteran originally from Niigata, along with his wife Chef Ami Hamasaki. Expect all the teppanyaki classics but with a focus on beef, showcasing the best grain-fed steaks from USDA Prime, to Australian Wagyu and a rotating premium selection from small Japanese farmers specialising in well-marbled cuts of beef.
Black Sheep Restaurants’ co-founder Christopher Mark comments; “In many ways, teppanyaki is the perfect food for premium dining. As a guest you are presented with all the raw ingredients and then you are the audience to the entire cooking process, there really is nowhere to hide.”
After the main event, retire to the 30-seat dessert and whisky lounge where French classics, all but forgotten in modern bakeries, meet vintage bottles. Elegantly retro French patisserie served on antique plates nod back to Japan’s affection for Nouvelle Cuisine.
And finally, what about the name Crown Super Deluxe? Black Sheep Restaurants’ co-founder, Syed Asim Hussain explains; “Chris and I have always had a bit of an obsession with taxis in Japan. We really admire the pride that these older gentleman drivers take in their work. Their 80s Toyota Crown Deluxe cars are always pristine, their formal uniforms are immaculate and their white gloves are spotless. That is something that really speaks to us. We are constantly telling the teams that excellence lives in doing small things correctly, so the name of the restaurant is really just a small salute to our service heroes – Japanese taxi-drivers. ”
Ready for a taste from the teppan? Crown Super Deluxe, located on Wyndham Street, is now taking reservations from 12 June onwards, open for dinner Tuesday to Sunday from 6pm to 10pm (last seating). To book your spot, email [email protected] or call 2111 8434 (website coming soon).