There are few dining experiences that thrill the taste buds while entertaining the diner quite like teppanyaki.
No, I didn’t mean to say hibachi cooking of Benihana fame. Here’s why:
Hibachi barbecue grills use charcoal or gas flame and feature open grate design. Teppanyaki grills, on the other hand, have a solid griddle-type cook surface, making them more suitable for smaller ingredients, such as rice, egg, finely chopped vegetables — and those beloved flaming onion volcanoes.
One might expect to only find the dinner and a show teppanyaki experience in downtown Tacoma, but Mandolin Restaurant & Steak House proves an exception. Located on South 12th Street, adjacent from Flipping Out Burgers & Fries, the restaurant occupies what previously was a cafe.
Stepping inside the recently expanded Mandolin Restaurant & Steak House you’ll find a casual dining area where expertly-made sushi is regular devoured, and a number of teppanyaki grills that seat 8-10 diners each. Then there are the sights, sounds, and smells of skilled chefs at work: grills hiss as they are heated and prepared, seasonings rattle against spatulas in a musical rhythm, and plumes of steam rise between bursts of flames.
And they’ve got jokes.
Grit City Magazine’s crew were informed only diners who can catch a piece scrambled egg in their mouth that was tossed high by the chef will be served fried rice. Two out of the three in our party succeeded after many attempts (all of us were dished a hefty portion of rice nonetheless).
Add to that a recurring schtick about Coca-Cola being the secret ingredient in their teppanyaki cooking (pretty sure that was soy sauce in that Coke bottle, bud) and the occasional near squirt to a diner’s face with a fake sauce bottle, and you’ve got a good time.
A common gripe about hibachi and teppanyaki dining is high prices, but Mandolin’s lunchtime chicken special, for instance, runs $11.95 — and includes miso soup and salad along with the meat and fried rice. (The dinner price is $18.95.)
Diners take to Yelp to comment on Mandolin’s large portions from the grill and review their sushi as well. As one Valentine’s Day diner put it, “Best sushi I have had. Friendly chefs and fun atmosphere!”
Mandolin serves lunch 11am to 2:30pm Monday through Friday, then opens again for dinner 4pm. Saturday hours are 11am to 10pm, Sundays they’re open 4pm to 10pm.
Images by Sierra Hartman