An egg is carefully flipped through the air, lands directly onto the side metal spatula, cracking right down the center and releasing its contents upon the hot grill. A quick round of polite applause emanates from the peanut gallery who are eagerly awaiting their food. The chef then passes bean sprouts around the table onto the plates, calling it “Japanese spaghetti”. This gets a few hints of a chuckle from the patrons.
Maybe I’m over glorifying the display of having a chef prepare teppanyaki right in front of you, but eating at Yamato easily ranks as one of my top 3 food experiences, and I was glad to enjoy it with the good company of my good friends, Zam and Antony.
Right in the heart of Yorkville, near the corner of Cumberland and Bellair, Yamato may be easy to overlook, not so much due to it being halfway underground, but because it sits within an area of high end trendy restaurants, many of them Japanese. What makes Yamato so unique is that it is one of the few Japanese steak houses in Toronto. This helps it stand out above the hundreds of sushi restaurants already scattered throughout the city.
It was my first time having a chef prepare your meal from scratch right in front of you, at your own table. I’ve seen it done in TV many times (who hasn’t?) but to actually have them do it right in front of you was amazing. They’re very well trained at both being quick with their hands, and at being charismatic, or at least ours was with his jokes and sly puns he tossed at us through the night. From flipping uncracked eggs, to setting an onion boat aflame, this guy did it all.
But enough about the chef, let’s talk about the food! For drinks, you’re offered the usual serving of tea and given a wine list, but Zam and I decided to each order a mix of a juice and a soda. I chose a combination of pineapple and soda water, while Zam went with cranberry soda.
For starters, we ordered a set of shrimp tempura, some sushi, and a plate of gyoza. I can’t really tell you too much about the quality of the shrimp tempura since shellfish does happen to be one of my allergies, but I can tell you that I only looked away for a minute, and the plate was empty. The gyoza was amazing, and thoroughly fried all around. Whenever I order gyoza at a sushi restaurant, I notice that it usually has a plastic-like after taste to it, but this was not the case with the ones I had tonight.
We each ordered our own teppanyaki combination dinner, which is slightly more costly then the standard teppanyaki dinners. I ordered the Teriyaki special set which not very adventerous of me though as it comes with a U.S. choice cut sirloin, and teriyaki chicken. Zam went with the Imperial set, which comes with filet mignon, shrimps, and some teriyaki chicken. Antony settled on the Daimyo set, which comes prime ribeye steak, scallops, and a lobster tail. It was also the most expensive of the choices, nearly double the cost of my set.
Each set came with a salad and some Japanese clear onion soup. The soup was a welcomed change from the miso soup I’m so used to getting when I go to other Japanese restaurants.
So how was the meal after all the preparation? Excellent. The sirloin was delicious and melted right in my mouth. There’s this debate amongst a few of us where steak doesn’t usually melt in your mouth when it’s well-done, only if you get it rare to medium-rare. But I can tell you this well-done steak one did. The boneless teriyaki chicken was also excellent, but there was some fat on the chicken pieces I was given. In case you haven’t been to a Japanese steakhouse before, that they cut up your meat right on the grill into bite size pieces, so it’s easier to eat with your chopsticks.
Antony said his lobster tail was excellent, which just the right amount of flavoring on. He noted the taste was super fishy even for lobster (but he likes fishy so I guess this is a good thing) and was bursting with flavor from each bite. Zam’s filet mignon was excellent, and he finished it before I could even grab a photo.
We all left, very impressed by our meal, but not so impressed with the behavior of the gentleman who was seated at the other end of the same table of us, trying to convince his date to come home with him though his displays of hypermasculinity, thankfully failing miserably. But that’s a tale for another day, or perhaps another website.
Average Price: $20 – $40 per teppanyaki dinner per person, $15 – $25 per entree
Hours: Lunch: Mon-Fri 11:30am – 3pm, Weekends noon – 3:30pm
Dinner: Mon-Thur 5pm – 11pm, Fri-Sat 4pm – midnight, Sun 4pm-10pm
TTC Directions: Get off at Bay subway station, exit out of the Cumberland exit, follow Cumberland easy to Bellair, and make a left.