Tacoma’s newest teppanyaki and sushi restaurant has opened. Mandolin Sushi & Steakhouse was a restaurant nearly a year in the making. The owners made over the restaurant from its former life as a coffee house to an eatery outfitted with slick decor. The dining room has a sushi counter and eight teppan cooking stations with room for 8-10 diners each. A back room holds two of the tabletops, which can be reserved for private parties.
Never experienced teppanyaki? Think of it as dinner and a show where chefs perform the culinary equivalent of parlor tricks while cooking for diners on a flat-top grill. The national chain Benihana made the Japanese style of cooking a trend decades ago. The meals are best for group dining. (Smaller parties may be seated communally at the stations.)
I’ve already received an email from one diner expressing sticker shock at Mandolin's dinner prices that range from $18.95-$37.95. Two things. One, teppanyaki is an experience. You’re paying for the performance by chefs trained to entertain diners. Second, the meals are multiple courses that typically include an appetizer, soup, vegetables, rice and the main course. Regionally, we’ve got similarly priced restaurants across the South Sound, such as Sakura Japanese Steakhouse in Tacoma, Mizu in Gig Harbor, Iron Chef in Puyallup and Samarai’s in Spanaway.
Owners Jenney and Doopyo Song own another restaurant in DuPont, Isushi Teriyaki. Jenney Song said by phone the Japanese style steakhouse is a first for the couple. She said the opening menu and pricing structure may change, but that the restaurant will always specialize in two things - sushi and live teppan cooking shows. Song boasted some about the teppan chefs they've hired. She described them as polished and experienced performers. One has a resume stretching a decade.
The restaurant is a half dozen blocks off the Sixth Avenue dining district in a building near South 12th and Proctor Streets. That space for years housed a similarly named business, Mandolin Cafe, which closed in July 2012. So, about that name. Song said although they share a name, the sushi and steakhouse has no relation to the Mandolin Cafe. She added that she and her husband kept the name Mandolin because they liked the sound of it and are fans of the musical instrument. Diners may notice there’s still a piano in the dining room. Live music anytime soon? I've asked the owners to notify me if they bring in performers.
Mandolin Sushi & SteakhouseWhere: 3923 S. 12th St., Tacoma, 253-301-4969, mandolinsteakhouse.com, serving lunch Monday-Saturday and dinner daily (better deals can be found on the lunch menu).Find the menus here.