Throw out all your Shanghai-fostered notions of teppanyaki restaurants as expat feeding frenzies heaped with freezer-burned sushi and meat, Sutekiya is an entirely different animal. Brought to you by Yi Le group, the guys behind Sushi Naru, Sutekiya presents exquisite Japanese-Euro creations that up the ante for teppanyaki in Shanghai.
Manning the helm is chef Kenji Fuji from the original Sutekiya in Osaka. At his side is French-trained Ethan Sia formerly of the award-winning Waku Ghin and Les Amis in Singapore (where Sutekiya’s machinery also comes from), who brainstorms the East-West concoctions. But despite technically being fusion, Sutekiya displays an excruciating attention to quality and detail that’s more Japanese than most of Shanghai’s Japanese joints.
You see this in the decor from the teppan, that’s polished and scrubbed more than a Lamborghini before an auto show, to the sticks of Wrigley Doublemint gum in the hotel suite-style bathroom to the private room in the back that’s completely cordoned off and comes with its own server. But most of all it’s the attitude. Chefs Kenji and Ethan, and their assistants, personally guided us through each dish, highlighting the ingredients, cooking techniques, and how to eat them. We felt like the only customers in a full house. And unlike at most “tasting menu” venues, their explanations were brief and served to enhance our enjoyment of the meal, rather than pompously wow us with how avant-garde the dishes were. The fare spoke for itself.
Dishes comprise several tasting menus: one more European-oriented spread (eats like black truffle capelinni, porcini rice) for 480RMB, another geared more toward Japanese tastes with items like seasonal sashimi and premier Wagyu (680RMB), and a third one with Euro, Japanese, and fusion-y elements (480RMB). Currently, there’s also a special menu catered even more to Japanese customers for 580RMB. These are all 9-courses. We opted for the comprehensive 12-course degustation menu (980RMB), which changes depending on what’s in season.
The meal kicked off with a minimalist plate of ruby-red momotaro tomato cubes aboard a canoe-shaped endive leaf. It was juicy, crisp, and precise – no excess noise, just pure essence of tomato. It provided a perfect palate rinse before the tsunami of succulence, beginning with a French oyster bathed in the vinegary Sutekiya dressing.
This was a truly great oyster, and this is coming from someone who grew up slurping fresh oysters on both the East and West coasts of the US. You chomp down on the plump belly, releasing a wave of biting brine, which eases into a creamy landing, with no metallic or watery backtaste. Like with Sushi Haru, all seafood is flown in three times a week.
Third up, an orange mound of sea urchin roe or uni, freckled with caviar, was one of the best culinary ménages à trois we’ve ever experienced. No need to describe why this was delicious, just imagine buttery uni punctuated with the savory fireworks of caviar.
Mushroom foams have become a bit of a parlor trick, but Sutekiya’s rendition, the “Maitake Mushroom Cappuccino,” is pretty damn tasty. A frothy amalgam of maitake juice and foam made from chicken stock and cream, it presents a warming remedy to the winter cold, with a clear, almost truffle-esque mushroom aura.
Speaking of, following it is a confit of egg with black truffle shavings, then abalone with Quinoa, and slow-braised Canadian lobster. We were a bit skeptical about Atlantic lobster at a teppanyaki spot, but once again, the Japanese emphasis on quality shined through, and the result evoked meat from the best East Coast lobster roll.
You recharge your palate with a tomato-lettuce salad, then it’s onto a tasty but failsafe combo of pan-seared foie gras with grape fruit, and the grand finale, premier Wagyu strip loin. At most Shanghai spots, “Wagyu” is an excuse to jack-up prices of mediocre beef, but here it tastes like a completely different animal. Chef Kenji shaves two dismayingly, but appropriately measly slices off a marbled slab, sears them on the teppan, and serves them with wasabi on a slab of Himalayan rock salt that looks like a giant salt lick. Rub them pieces on it, try one with wasabi, one without. The cuts don’t melt in your mouth. They evaporate. Before you can process the beefy succulence which makes pork belly’s texture seem like limestone, it’s gone.
That’s not the end of the delicious decathlon, which culminates with tasty porcini rice, a pre-dessert strawberry shooter, and a dessert special. But we’d just as soon have a second helping of Wagyu.
Chef Ethan (left) and Chef Kenji (right)
Sutekiya is the best teppanyaki in town. European-cultivated creativity meets Japanese standards of quality, and results in teppanyaki creations that serve to maximize flavor rather than stroke the chef’s artistic ego.
Sutekiya – 3/F, Jiadun Plaza, 2088 Yan’an Xi Lu (延安西路嘉顿广场3楼). Tel: (0)21-6029-0518. Hours: 5:30-11pm.
See a complete list of our reviews here.
Benjamin Cost is Shanghaiist’s Food Editor. Email tips, recommendations, and news updates on Shanghai’s dining scene to [email protected].