Tokyo Steakhouse is really two restaurants in one. The main event is the Teppanyaki-style (hibachi) dining en masse, but there is also a regular dining room without the theatrics. I’ve tried to average the ratings between the two. If you’re looking for a quiet dinner, don’t sit at the communal hibachi tables. If you have the kids or you’re in the mood for a show, then the performing chefs, the clanging of stainless steel and the flying food will be lots of fun.
The first thing you have to remember about Tokyo Steakhouse is how to get there. It seems so easy: There it is, plain as day, right on Coastal Highway just before Home Depot in Lewes. But if you’re driving north and make the first possible U-turn, you’ll end up back in Rehoboth Beach. The key to the treasure map is this: Turn into the Home Depot lot and follow the signs. (The Foodie made the death-defying series of U-turns twice out of his three visits to the place. How sad.)
The Japanese tradition of ritual and the art of performance are at the center of the experience at Tokyo Steakhouse. The main dining room is outfitted with eight Teppanyaki tables, each consisting of a huge steel grill surrounded on three sides by nine or ten seats. A betoqued chef performs at the fourth side, armed with spatulas, knives, long forks and, at least during our visits, a good sense of humor. In Teppanyaki-style cooking, the customers become part of the show. Eggs are twirled and cracked into mounds of sizzling rice, smoking stacks of onions caramelize as shrimp, chicken and beef are dramatically (and noisily) sliced, diced, flipped and generally tossed about. If you’re not particularly coordinated, don’t wear your best shirt to Tokyo Steakhouse. Part of the show includes shrimp launched through the air to be caught in your mouth. Sometimes you catch it, and sometimes it ends up on your shirt. Or in your hair. It should come as no surprise that The Foodie caught his shrimp every time. (Accompanying guests suggested that the target was large and easy to hit.)
The Japanese Onion Soup that accompanies the meal might look humble, but it’s quite delicious. The clear broth is studded with mushrooms and scallions, and you shouldn’t be embarrassed to dispense with the annoying spoon, pick up the little bowl and drink it down. Who cares? You’ve already got grilled shrimp all over your shirt. The same goes for the tiny salad. It’s just lettuce, tomatoes and cucumbers, but the house dressing is creamy and delicious. My Favorite Foodie-at-Arms has a neurotic fear of mayonnaise, and he loves the stuff. Let’s just keep this between you and me. What he doesn’t know won’t hurt him.
Of course, the food served up at the hibachi grill is hot and steaming. Coupled with the culinary acrobatics and silly patter, the dining experience is memorable and lots of fun.
Unfortunately the same cannot be said for the non-Teppanyaki dining room (which includes a large sushi bar/prep area). Though the food tasted fine (and you can’t go wrong with the soup and salad), the main courses arrived at the table just a degree or two above room-temperature. I suspect that our server submitted the entrees to the kitchen too soon (as we noshed on our appetizers, she asked several times if we were ready for our mains–this is something she should have known). I had the Seafood Deluxe platter consisting of bite-size chunks of Grilled Lobster Tail, nicely seasoned Scallops and Shrimp with fried rice and an interesting grilled veggie side. Others ordered the Teriyaki Scallops and the Kyoto Chicken (chunks of seasoned chicken with rice and the veggie). Though the dinners were probably hot and appetizing when they were put up in the window, they sat too long as the server orbited our table waiting for us to finish the appetizers. And we were one of only three tables in the huge dining room.
The Teppanyaki tables1/4 Tokyo Steakhouse2/4 Tokyo Steakhouse3/4 The Tempura appetizer4/4
Speaking of appetizers, you have to get the Shrimp Tempura. It was hot, crispy and attractively presented. On other visits we got the Japanese Springrolls (delicate fried bites, cut on a bias with a bright dipping sauce) and, of course, the Edamame. Nothin’ like sucking on those salty little pods. They are addictive.
I hope that our experience with the tepid mains isn’t par for the course at Tokyo Steakhouse. I do suggest when you sit in the regular dining room that you remind your server not to put in your entree order too early. But if you plop yourself at the Teppanyaki tables, it all happens right before your eyes.
Tokyo Steakhouse is at 17906 Coastal Highway, immediately south of Home Depot in Lewes. Give them a call off-season to double-check their hours (302) 645-9728. Check out their menu here. (D., Bar) Price range: Moderate +.