A major problem when you ask friends about the fun places they’ve been to dinner in Tokyo is they usually have no idea of the name. Generally, most local eateries (i.e., those not on the international food radar) aren’t big on displaying English versions of their name, let alone having an English menu.  Greedy Girl’s colleagues had regaled her with stories of enjoyable nights out but as for being able to offer any salient details (where it was and what it was called) – they drew a blank.

Greedy Girl and gluttonous husband, having resorted to pointing to pictures in a menu for lunch in a hole-in-the-wall cafe in the backstreets of Ginza, decided to take a more scientific approach. When one venue Greedy Girl had found online was fully booked, the hotel concierge asked what we wanted to eat. Greedy Girl was in the mood for steak. He directed us to Teppanyaki Ten and drew a walking route after being left in no doubt we weren’t enamoured with the idea of getting a taxi. He said it was around a 20-minute walk. Booking made for a ‘non smoking seat’ (more on that later), we headed out.

Staying at the Park Hotel in Shiodome was a bonus for our Tokyo experience. It was a short walk to Ginza and an easy commute via the local station as well as the nearby Shimbashi station to virtually everywhere else in this enormous city. There was also a decent range of convenience stores and even a reasonable supermarket nearby. Greedy Girl and gluttonous husband prefer to walk wherever possible and off we went into the early evening to find Teppanyaki Ten. The concierge wrote down the characters but also said the name was written in English. All good.

Ginza has a restaurant every few metres and most of them seemed to involve ducking into a basement, with very low ceilings. Gluttonous husband needed to mind his noggin as we found Teppanyaki Ten after a very uneventful and pleasant walk (especially after learning that smoking is banned in Tokyo’s streets and confined to specific smoking areas) and descended a moodily-lit staircase to a long room. Shown to seats in front of the teppan, we were given menus in English (also not to be sneezed at in Tokyo – they’re far from commonplace), ordered a couple of frosty glasses of Asahi and contemplated what was on offer.

Our friendly chef cooking on the gleaming stainless steel surface in front of us had a few words of English and was very engaging. We opted to share four dishes – octopus, sirloin steak, grilled foie gras and a Japanese pancake with seafood and green onions.

First up was the octopus, quickly grilled in front of us (pictured above). This was just the ‘suckers’ of the octopus, seared with a tiny amount of oil, served with some sprouts and a salt and pepper mix on a flat stone platter. The texture of the octopus was very firm although not chewy – almost crunchy. It was very light and enjoyable.

Next up was the highlight of the evening – sirloin steak. Given we were sharing, gluttonous husband’s request for his steak to be served ‘blue’ was slightly redundant. This was grilled as a fillet and cut into cubes at the end of the cooking, revealing pink, juicy flesh. It was served with greens, shredded daikon, crushed garlic and wasabi as well as that delightfully fresh and light Japanese soy. It was soft perfection – so good it would have been easy to just keep ordering it over and over until filled to bursting. But, we had more to come.

Teppanyaki Ten Tokyo

Sirloin steak

Next up was the Japanese pancake, described as being filled with green onions and seafood on the menu. The pancake was indeed filled with green onions as well as a few other veggies, topped with a sticky, sweet sauce and a dollop of Japanese mayo (also reasonably sweet) on the side. The sweetness was required to balance out the ‘seafood’ – a pile of bonito flakes. This was just freaky. The flakes kept moving – literally waving in the non-existent breeze. Greedy Girl looked up to see if we were sitting under an air-conditioning vent but there was no external reason why they would keep curling and fluttering. They were certainly a very strong flavour and while Greedy Girl enjoyed the dish in moderation, gluttonous husband managed to hoover up the rest.

Teppanyaki Ten Tokyo

Japanese pancake with freaky Bonito flakes

We sat and sipped our beers (a bargain at around 400 yen each) and watched as other diners were presented with the foie gras dish. Admittedly it didn’t look all that attractive and looked almost impossible to eat with chopsticks. Ours never arrived but when we were presented with the bill (in Japanese) there were four lines, plus the drinks. Greedy Girl enquired as to whether one of the lines on the bill referred to foie gras and we had a slight ‘Lost in Translation’ moment when we mentioned that this was a dish we did not receive. This precipitated some rapid fire Japanese going back and forth and the slightest indication from the chef of a variation of ‘D’oh’ before the bill was amended and off we went into the night, gluttonous husband doing his best to avoid banging his head on the very low ceilings, much to the mirth of the waitress.

Tokyo is a very unusual city in regard to smoking. While it’s banned in the street, it’s open season in most dining rooms. The idea of ‘non smoking seats’ is all well and good until the table behind you starts puffing away. At a cafe in the delightfully hip and groovy Daikanyama district of Tokyo, we took advantage of a beautifully warm and sunny day to sit out in the sun for lunch and coffee. Smoking was banned outside, although walking into the cafe to use the toilets, it was a fog of cigarette smoke. Go figure!

If you’re really averse to the smoky environments, look for an open air bar or go to the local eateries early before it gets busy – you’ll minimise your exposure for sure.

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