“ 2-6 Ingram Street,Merchant City,Glasgow G1 1HA. Tel:0141 553 4060 „
I love to eat out and it has always been a dream of mine to go and visit a new restaurant in its opening week, to see how it begins to operate and hopefully sample some great food as the chefs aim to impress. On my drive to and from work I spotted construction beginning underneath a new apartment building on Ingram Street in Glasgow, my curiosity piqued when I spotted the distinctive rising sun logo of Sapporo Teppanyaki being hung in the window. Having lived in Manchester some years ago I was already familiar with the name and it turns out the Glasgow restaurant is the company's third venture adding a site in Liverpool to its locations a few years ago. So on Saturday night only three days after its opening me and the other half hot footed it across after making a sneaky telephone booking.
Japanese cuisine. For many that means little more than rice and steak with some soy sauce thrown in for good measure. Having spent two weeks in Japan in 2007 I love the simplicity of the cusinie, simple flavours that rely on being expertly cooked. The clue for in this restaurants appeal is in the 'Teppanyaki' which means grill in Japanease, in actual fact a large flat super hot grill on which the Japanease chefs cook your meal in front of your seats and provide some culinary entertainment.
On arrival the restaurant was buzzing, soft orange and pink lighting made for a romantic atmosphere but the seats themselves are arranged in squares around the Teppanyaki grill. You will be sitting by strangers but for us that was all part of the fun. The Glasgow restaurant also offers little side rooms ideal for birthday get togethers and celebrations. Because you are sat literally next to the grill the area is very well lit! This is certainly not the place for you if you want a quiet chat with a loved one. Because the restaurant is so busy each 'square' which held 14 people seemed to have a start time, every 15 minutes a new square would be seated which meant you all get your dinner at around the same time.
Predictably opened at the set menu page you are offered a substantial menu of starter, salad, miso soup and chicken teppanyaki with all the trimmings for £25, this increases to £28 and then £35 for steak and seafood. We decided not to go down this root as it would have made for an expensive experience and instead scoured the menu. There is an ample selection to cater for all tastes. Sushi is offered and although I did not have any our fellow diners did and it looked delicious, fresh and good portion size. The salads range in price from £5.50 to £8.50 and the hot appetisers are a similar range. We decided to share a hot appetiser and then both selected a dish from the teppanyaki selection. I was impressed by the selection of fish that was on offer a fillet of monkfish on the teppanyaki was £17.50, sirloin steak £18.95, chicken £15.95 and numerous vegetarian options starting from £9.50. All the teppanyaki dishes are served with Sapporo potatoes, egg fried rice and vegetables to make a decent sized meal.
**The Experience - prepare to be entertained!**
The food in Sapporo is good but that is not why you come here, you come for the show. (One couple on our table provided much hilarity as they appeared to have no idea this would be taking place and proceeded to have faces like a wet weekend throughout its duration!) The Japanese chefs are highly skilled. After you starters have been served from the kitchen they get under way on the grill. At first they will show you their knife skills performing some juggling tricks and generally interacting with you. We had a great game of catching potato chips in our mouths that of course you can decline to take part in! You will be treated to a juggling display with eggs and a mischievous bottle of ketchup may make its way into your lap. The most eye catching display is when they set the grill alight, the heat is intense but everyone gets involved, cheering and clapping making this a distinctly unBritish and interesting dining experience.
Watching your food getting cooked is also a great way to spend a restaurant visit, you don't feel quite so pressured to make conversation (after six years we've run out of chatter J ) and as I love cooking it was fascinating.
Our starter was diced yellow fin tuna with a spicy tomato sauce, prepared in the hidden kitchen it was nice but not sensational and was a little on the costly side at £6.95. I opted for garlic sirloin teppanyaki and my other half had pork teppanyaki. The food is served in stages so you wont get a plate of potatoes, meat, veg and rice, ours was served potatoes, then some veg, the rice and the meat. I was prepared for this but I think it is worth mentioning. You get some great dips for your potatoes and being served in this way means you savour every item and is a relaxed way of eating. Everything was exceptionally well cooked, my steak was just to die for and can only be beaten by the Kobe steak I had in Kobe, woohoo go me! I like my steak rare and this was verging on blue but it was good quality meat and the fish I saw being cooked was of a good size and also good quality. The chunks of garlic were substantial but certainly not a dish to have on a first date or when planning to engage in conversation with vampires. My boyfriends pork was juicy and full of flavour, one of the advantages of the teppanyaki grill is that it retains all the meats juices and then the rice is fried in it soaking up the flavours of the different meats. Yum!
The service was superb but there was an although lot of staff around! Every two minutes someone was there checking if we needed anything or just looking over our square for empty glasses. Im sure this will settle down somewhat when they get into their stride as with only just opening I can understand wanting to have too many staff than too few.
For our starter, two glasses of white wine (£3.00 a glass which I thought was fantastic value) two pints of Japanese beer (£3.50 per pint) my sirloin steak teppanyaki and the pork teppanyaki we paid £68.00 this included a service charge. It was pricey but we enjoyed it, something a little different for you to sample on a Saturday night. Booking for the next few weeks is recommended, four stars, good but not in the same league as Jamie Oliver at 15 in an earlier review.