Shirokanedai: Teppanyaki
Karashi (Shirokanedai: Teppanyaki)
Open 5:30-11pm. Closed Mondays.
Sun: Open Sundays

Karashi is a comfortable neighborhood spot that specializes in both teppanyaki and okonomiyaki. It's an odd combination - even though both styles of cooking use the same type of grill, Japanese teppanyaki steaks are usually served in upscale settings like fancy hotel restaurants, while okonomiyaki dishes (those savory pancakes that are so popular in Kansai) are found in far more humble surroundings. The restaurant Karashi falls between these two extremes - it's comfortably appointed and the food is good, but you don't have to worry about the exorbitant expense of a typical Japanese steak house.

At first glance it seems more like a bar than a restaurant here (and in fact there's a late-night bar upstairs in the same building, under the same management). There's a nice low-key atmosphere and a crowd of neighborhood regulars. Most of the seating is at a big counter that wraps around the grill area, where the chefs are hard at work chopping and sauteeing. (There are a few tables that may work better for groups, but most customers prefer the entertainment and interaction at the counter.)

The menu is large but not very complicated - sauteed seasonal vegetables, sauteed seasonal fish and shellfish, steaks and okonomiyaki - almost everything straight off the grill. The focus is more on good-quality ingredients rather than dazzling recipes, so the excellent grilled salmon for example is served with just a bit of lemon, a sprig of dill and a dollop of tartar sauce. Japanese beef steaks come with toasted garlic chips, some bean sprouts and a Japanese-style ponzu dipping sauce. Eringi mushrooms come with a perfunctory dab of mustard.

There are a few creative touches though, and one highlight is the "risotto harumaki" - rice and a rather sharp cheese stuffed into a spring roll wrapper and deep-fried, somewhat reminiscent of fried Italian rice balls. The salads are nicely constructed (with surprise ingredients like fish roe), and the okonomiyaki is especially light and fluffy, with a pleasingly crispy crust.

The prix-fixe dinners are a good way to sample a range of the dishes here; for example the 4700-yen steak dinner also includes starters, grilled starters, grilled seafood, salad and dessert. There are also seafood-centered and okonomiyaki-centered options, or you can splurge on lobster and foie gras if you're in the mood. You'll find some not-bad Chilean wine in the Y3000 yen vicinity, and several French choices in the 6-10,000 yen range, but the well-chosen sake list is probably a better bet for the food here.

The shop also does a very nice weekend lunch service.

by Pam Castle
Minato-ku, Shirokanedai 3-19-5.
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Venue listing from Bento.com4 Star Rating: recommended