Steak House Chiro
Location: south side of Numazu station. Basically head west from the station and head down the 4th street on your left (4th street including the one the leads into the station. Well according to the map on the back of the business card.). It is on a street on the left about 40m down. More accuate details when I get this Numazu map thingy set up. http://www.mapbuilder.net/users/burpwind/42289
Style: Kobe beef teppanyaki (bar top grill)
English menu: yes
Picture menu: no
Gaijin friendly: Yes 10/10
Ph: (055) 951-666
Opening Hrs: 11:30am-2pm/5pm-10:00pm
It was our seventh anniversary and high time to make another perfect excuse to have a decent feed. My wife and I have vowed to dine at all the places that we had spent the previous year saying we should try out but never actually going there. We had earlier done this in Thailand and by the time we were ready to leave after our three-month stay we had a wonderful list of dining opportunities with very little dining experiences.
Steak House Chiro was one of those places on our list. Situated on the south side of Numazu station Steak House Chiro first caught out attention one afternoon when we were returning from another meeting at the Numazu Kyo-iku Kaikan. From the street the first thing that caught my eye was the slogan for Kobe Beef above the door. Kobe Beef has a reverence in Japan that is on par with the Hindu reverence for their beefErh cattle, sorry. Great poems and writings have been made about this epic beef of Japan, describing its sensuous flavor and aroma that fill your whole being with joy as the meat melts before your tongue sending you into a state of Nirvana (well a beef eating nirvana anyway).
It was time to try this mythical beef. The parameters of the excuse were met, so my wife and I ventured forth to celebrate seven years of eating together.
Entering most Japanese restaurants is a bit of fearful thrill-seeking for me. No I don’t get out much, but I must say I have evolved from the old school day knock and run to entering and wondering if this is going to be another time where I Russian RouletteEthe Kanji menu. The worst or best thing about dining in Japan is that you are generally greeted, seated and hot towelEd before you have a chance to see if the menu either has pictures or is in English. Fortunately the obaasan (grandmother) was having none of this and shepherded us to our seats with some friendly greetings and a strong guiding hands.
The interior of the Steakhouse Chiro was an interesting attempt at replicating a German Pub with high and what might have once been cream or white ceilings featuring dark brown support struts. The dark lighting and antique knickknacks also added a certain flavour to the restaurant. While still trying to overcome my earlier hesitation I was currently looking around for some tables when I found my self being guided to some stainless steel bar top hotplates. It was to be Teppsnyaki then.
My eyes were then immediately attracted to the fuzzy grey woolen cushions on our seats. We made a few wasted comments on these delights before sitting down allowing our buttocks to be swallowed by the wool.
From about the waist down the restaurant had a well designed, though a little aged decor. However, as I sat down I noticed the back wall of the open kitchen and found all the signs of a real estate agent who might like to use the word ‘quaint’. The back wall is the main thing we will be staring at for the night so it does merit some comment (yes, yes staring into the eyes of my love one on our anniversary should be all I should worry about but hey, it’s not our first year anniversary is it?) Old stained tiles ventured all the way up the wall to meet the mumbling of the ventilation fan and a slightly off white, in the wrong places, air conditioner. But hey, everything else looked fine and we were soon to be taking the shamanic route to bliss using our drug of choice, Kobe Beef.
While I was marveling at the back wall, my wife was trying to catch a glimpse of the couples menu near us. From first reconnaissance reports there appeared to be no English and no pictures. While this is a little off putting I am still fond of what I find using the old close your eyes and point method of ordering. However it was not long until the same obaasan wearing a different dress arrived with menu in hand. To our delight there was an English menu below the larger Japanese scrawl.
The menu featured both tenderloin and sirloin Kobe beef with three combinations of garlic, soy or garlic and bacon. There were also ‘lesser’ cuts and some appetizers. The wine list featured a variety of decent German wines and of course the typical Japanese fair of spirits, beer and 101 types of sake.
For appetizers the smoked salmon with caper salad caught our eye. And of course for the main we were going to have the beef. While it may seem to be a ‘sell out’ to some, we both decided on the tenderloin with bacon and garlic instead of tasting the beef as it was. I lost little sleep on the decision. Those die hards of keep it plain will just have to stop reading.
Many Japanese diners appreciate the subtle art of suffering a little for their meal. Whether it be for the potentially life threatening gentle numbing sensation of eating blowfish or over dosing on wasabi, the dining experience of suffering is not lost in this country. Coming to Steak House Chiro, I believe that I would be saved this culinary experience until I saw the bibs being brought out and tied around our necks. It was to be in the form of humiliation this time. Fortunately, we were not alone and even my wife’s bag had to suffer this indignation. Further, I must say that they were very nice linen bibs; no pastel coloured teddy bears in sight.
Perhaps the bibs were a cunning means to induce some heavy drinking, because it was not long before we were through our first glass of wine when our appetizer arrived. Thoughts of bibs washed from our mind as we set our sights on this starter. The smoked salmon was delicately folded onto the plate forming a wave meeting a shoreline of caper salad. The salads simple lemon dressing was a good choice with the tang of the capers and the sweetness of the smoked salmon. Though, being critical I must say that the salmon lacked a certain amount of smoky richness, but not a bad start to the evening meal.
After our starters we had an opportunity to survey our surroundings a little more. From what we gathered the restaurant was run by a family of what seemed to be (twin?) sisters who waited and their husbands who cooked. Though it was possibly as equally unlikely this was the case, but it is my narrative and it makes me feel warm and fuzzy.
It was now time for my wife and I to recall all the events in my wife’s memory that we had experienced. The cold sweat of the first round of ‘Do you remember…’ was setting in. It is the all too common curse of men to forget every important event and associated detail that our loving partners have painstakingly catalogued by height, weight, colour, texture and cost. Men, it is enough to just remain standing at then end of this gauntlet of failed memories and the odd submissive, “But honey that’s why I need you to remember all the good things for me.E
The teppanyaki chef must have been aware of my distress and came to my rescue by starting the meal. After inquiring into our preference for the meat Emy wife medium (she must had enough blood in the last interrogation) and me rare (feeling pale and in need of a transfusion)* – he was ready to get started. First he grilled slithers of garlic on the hot plate with a touch of grape seed oil, the rich aroma reaching us was amazing. He cooked these for some time until they were golden and placed them to the side of the heat.
There are very few aromas that I like more than that of garlic. Its unique scent is only second in my book to a quality smoked bacon. Lucky for me this was our chefs next treat to prepare. I really like the idea of teppanyaki, you are virtually having two meals. First the one you taste with your olfactory senses and then later with your gustatory. Perhaps this is why I like cooking so much. It’s twice the meal with only half the calories.
Bacon well cooked, put to the side and mixed with the garlic, it was time for the blessed beef. As our chef brought over the steak I noticed its dark texture suggesting it had been aged and softened for some time (both the chef and the beef). On closer inspection of the tenderloin I could see that there was just the right amount of marbling to even make the pickiest roman engineer happy. Briefly searing my wife’s steak and then mine in a mixture of grapeseed oil and what appeared to be a very mild brown vinegar, our steaks were sliced in to chopstick friendly pieces and mixed with the garlic and bacon.
After a quick frying of a mountain of sprouts everything was ready to go on the plate. Before us was also a tray of sauces and pepper. The sauces included a mild misso sauce and another with what tasted to be misso, garlic and soy. I am sure that all were meant for the steak but ended up being for the sprouts. After having added garlic and bacon to the steak I couldn’t justify further flavours to the mix when tasting such a famed product.
Well the wait was over and I was ready to taste this glorious beef from Kobe. Chopstick at the ready I picked up a piece and raised it to my mouth taking in its aroma on the way. I was not disappointed. This was quality beef only second to cuts from cattle raised on rich green pastures; my personal favourite. Tasting the steak confirmed by guess about the aging of the beef. The uric acid had done its work in conjunction with the marbling to leave a sweet tenderness to the meat that suggested that it could almost be rendered apart with the tongue. This was a treat and it was difficult to slow myself down to get the full enjoyment out of the meal.
I also took the opportunity to take the garlic and bacon separately before enjoying it as a whole ensemble. First the garlic, having been grilled on the hotplate began to caramelize but its natural strength of flavour and sweetness suggested that it may have been the aromatic, purple stripe garlic; a rarity in Japan. The bacon was also another treat. This was the good stuff. Slightly thicker than a standard cut and yellowed in the smoking process, the bacon was a delight.
Now for the combination. Precariously balancing garlic, bacon and steak between chopsticks I carefully raised it to my mouthElosed my eyesEnd tastedEnd took a chewEnd moaned in delight. This was amazing and the automatic groan appeased the chef’s eager anticipation of approval. The firmer consistancy of the bacon and garlic blended with the smooth melting nature of the beef was spiritual, had I not been insulting 3 religions in one bite of course. The sweetness and acidity of the garlic brought out the flavours of the tenderloin while the bacon rich aroma and flavour added a new level to the complexity of the taste. The groans of delight we were making were a perfect reminder of our first months of courtship. Well to my mind anyway, and something that I ‘do’ remember.
We took our time enjoying our meal and savoring each bite. However, the couple to our right was causing us some distress. From what we could see an older man had taken his much younger partner out for a meal. From the mans one-sided conversation and the woman’s disinterested grunts indicating that she was either listening or breathing and her distinctive dress sense reminiscent of the local ladies of the reed life, we concluded that the man had taken out his ‘snack’ for a meal. But this was by no means the cause of our distress. Indeed our experiences in seedy Pattaya, Thailand have numbed us to any ill feelings we could have had about this situation. Nevertheless the truly distressing part of this couple was that the woman had taken one piece of her steak and left the rest to go cold. Left the rest!!! I had half a mind to sidle over next to her and start picking at her plate. But, what deepened the insult was that the man had asked for a doggy bag for her to take the remainder of her meal home for breakfast and that they need not pack the meat. We were stricken, but thoroughly amused.
By the time we had exhausted our jests and hypotheses about the couple it was time to leave. Steakhouse Chiro was definitely a great launch into the world of teppanyaki for us. While the above waist level, decor, and the obaasans sometimes, over helpfulness proved a little distracting we thoroughly enjoyed our experience here. About 18,000 yen lighter we left the restaurant feeling sated and happy in the knowledge that we enjoyed a great meal and celebrated our seven years together in style. What better way to finish the evening than with a quick trip to McDonalds and a McFlurry. Yes, disgraceful indeed.
Cheers Scott Garbie
*Really my wife is not that bad and I even managed to remember something she didn’t this time, “check and mate, baby cakes” She knows she is the brain of the outfit.