Wednesday was dedicated to a review of the local example of a regional Japanese steakhouse and sushi bar chain — Hayashi. Monday you read the disappointing impetus of that review, the rather unfortunate treatment of a once-in-a-lifetime retirement party for an air traffic controller who had dedicated twenty-two years of his professional life to the service of this nation’s National Airspace System. Today I’m going to present to fans of Japanese-style steakhouses the best example I’ve found here in El Paso.
It’s called the Koze Teppan Grill, and like Hayashi, it doesn’t just stop at the normal Japanese steakhouse fare of grilled beef, chicken, and seafood; it also excels in other things Japanese. Koze Teppan Grill is located at 6127 N. Mesa, Suite B, sharing a parking lot with a Pizza Hut, a Blockbuster Video, the Sin Tini bar, and Trevly Ice Cream and Frozen Yogurt shop. That’s right — one stop shopping for dinner, dessert, and after-dinner drinks all in one parking lot.
While it’s billed as a teppan grill, Koze does in fact also makes an exceptional sushi, albeit not cheaply. One of my personal favorites, and oddly enough one of the most affordable examples (although technically not a true sushi), is Koze’s tempura roll. Unlike other tempura rolls, in which tempura-style shrimp is the basis of the roll, Koze instead rolls around vegetable tempura and places the roll beneath a bed of additional vegetable tempura. Unfortunately, they then try to ruin it by topping the roll with an unnecessarily heavy and distracting mayonnaise-based sauce. Do yourself a favor and tell the waiter to forgo the sauce when you order this for your appetizer in preparation for the teppan experience.
All teppan entrées include a soup and salad. The soup goes beyond the usual tasteless miso, giving the patron something much more substantial on the tongue. The salad may be pedestrian by Japanese steakhouse standards, but tell the truth — has that robust ginger-based dressing ever really disappointed? It won’t here, either.
The table chefs here are quite talented — much more so than our experience at Hayashi, in fact. Here you’re in for quite a show during the preparation of the meal. And let’s face it — the show is almost half the fun at going to these type restaurants. Otherwise, why go? This stuff is easily made at home at a fraction of the cost.
The Japanese fried rice here is expertly prepared, excellently seasoned, and exceptionally presented . . . and Koze neither charges extra nor skimps on the serving.
The Accompanying vegetables are perfectly grilled — exploding with garden-fresh taste and retaining a freshly picked crunchiness with just a hint of carmelization and without the taste or texture of being raw.
The meat cuts do not disappoint. Filet Mignon is as tender as one would expect of such a cut, and the steak is flavorful without a distracting chewiness sometimes associated with a lesser cut. I did not try the chicken, but our table mates expressed their approval. As for the seafood, both the shrimp and the scallops were of excellent quality and well-prepared without a hint of the tendency to overcook that seems common to such establishments.
Put that all together in a nice, tableside presentation and this is what you can expect (minus some of the steak, which didn’t survive being photographed):