Old-time Chinese is out. Japanese teppanyaki is in.
Jade Palace in University Place closed July 16. As that longtime University Place Chinese restaurant searches for its new home, a Japanese steakhouse prepares to remodel the Green Firs Towne Center space into a 180-seat restaurant.
The bulk of the seating in Sapporo will be spread across 12 teppanyaki tables with room for about 10 diners each.
“Our plan is to host big birthday parties,” said Tina Lee, who will operate the restaurant with husband Max Lee.
“We’ll be the best fit because we have big tables,” she said. The 10-seat tables can be combined to seat up to 20, she said.
Those cook-top tables will host teppanyaki, which is a teriyaki-style dinner prepared during a live cooking show sometimes referred to as hibachi. Chefs cook and dice marinated meats, fried rice and vegetables at a spacious grill. Diners are seated at the table with a close-up view of the action, and their dishes are filled directly from the grill.
The experience is intentionally communal, with strangers seated next to one another around the tables (unless, of course, a dining party can fill a single table).
For veterans, teppanyaki at Sapporo will come with the usual theatrics and kitchen tricks, including the flaming onion volcano and fancy spatula work.
Teppanyaki dinners at Sapporo come with a choice of chicken, steak and myriad seafood choices. There also are a number of surf-and-turf options. Teppanyaki dinners on Sapporo’s menu are listed at $15 to $27 with a few higher priced options, such as lobster-and-steak combinations. Dinners include salad, vegetables and a choice of rice or noodles.
The restaurant will serve lunch and dinner daily. The teppanyaki tables also will operate at lunchtime, not just dinner.
Other options include sushi and nigiri. There will be a dine-in sushi bar, plus booth seating for those not wanting teppanyaki. Japanese classics, such as donburi and udon, also are listed on the menu. The restaurant plans to serve cocktails, beer and sake.
The Sapporo space will be larger than the footprint of the old Jade Palace. Sapporo’s owners also took over the adjacent space that once held a Quizno’s.
The Lees already own three Japanese steakhouses in the area around Buffalo, New York. Tina Lee was raised in Renton, and her parents previously owned a Chinese restaurant in Burien. After she graduated from college, Lee moved to New York to pursue her career in finance and that’s where she met her husband.
Max Lee also comes from a restaurant family that specialized in Japanese cuisine (Max’s mother is Japanese and his father is Chinese). Many of the recipes used at Sapporo come from Max’s mother, an avid cook.
His other New York restaurants have featured sushi or teppanyaki, or both. Relatives now run those New York restaurants as the couple moved here to establish the steakhouse in University Place.
Work on the space already has begun. Don’t expect an opening until the fall or later.
As for Jade Palace, the search for a new home continues. A Facebook message last week from the restaurant said, “... keep an eye on our Facebook page for our new location when we find one.”
Sapporo Japanese Steakhouse
Where: 3812 Bridgeport Way W., University Place.