KAANAPALI - It has been a long time since I had the opportunity to experience teppanyaki dining, so when I was invited to Sheraton Maui's Teppan Yaki Dan restaurant, I was looking forward to an entertaining evening.
Sheraton Maui Resort & Spa recently hired Raymond Nicasio, from the Philippines and lately Sheraton Kauai, as its executive sous chef. Chef Raymond oversees the four restaurant outlets at the resort. His philosophy about Teppan Yaki Dan is that since it's a traditional Japanese steakhouse, it doesn't have to be reinvented. The format works.
"People come here to experience the show. It's magic to watch! There's a connection between the chefs and customers, so the dining experience is really engaging," Nicasio said.
Chefs put on a show for guests at Teppan Yaki Dan restaurant. PHOTO BY THE SHERATON MAUI RESORT & SPA.
Chef Raymond was absolutely right. We were seated with three other couples at our teppan table. Our host for the evening was Chef Jay-Mar Pascua, a Lahaina-grown young man who recently moved back from Oahu. He treated us to a mesmerizing display of knife and spatula juggling with flips, twists and turns to warm us up for the main event: cooking our meal to order.
As Chef Jay-Mar began preparing the grill, we were treated to bowls of miso soup with clams, and edamame beans. First, he stacked sliced onion rings into a beehive type of pyramid, added flambe sauce and lit it to create a flaring volcano. Chef Jay-Mar started dialogue around the table by telling us about himself and encouraging his guests to ask questions. Before long, we all felt like the chef was our new friend.
As the chef was grilling fresh julienned vegetables with bean sprouts, he asked if we would prefer steamed white rice or Teppan Yaki Dan's signature Ginger Garlic Fried Rice. We opted for the fried rice and delved into the savory blend of seasoning and spices. Next, each of us ordered an entree that the chef would prepare as we watched.
Teppan Yaki Dan's menu offers a selection of entrees that is sure to please any palate. The red meat is prime cut and finely marbled, including Black Angus Ribeye, New York Strip and Filet Mignon. I had the Ribeye, and my partner chose a New York - both cuts were tender and very flavorful. Chef Jay-Mar grilled them just the way we requested.
The menu also features a fresh island fish of the day, shrimp grilled with Maui Gold pineapple, chicken marinated with house teriyaki sauce and a Teppan Tofu. If that's not enough to choose from, you can try one of the signature entrees like Lobster Batayaki - in which medallions of lobster are grilled with macadamia nut butter and lemon zest - or Island Style Pacific Scallops seared with a macadamia nut crust. Those with bigger appetites might want to go for the Ultimate Steak Combination of a Filet Mignon paired with Lobster Tail, Tiger Shrimp, Pacific Scallops, Chicken or the Fresh Catch.
Chef Nicasio remarked, "We use locally sourced ingredients as much as possible. Bean sprouts, bok choy and herbs, high-quality meats and seafood are all from producers who use sustainable practices. We develop flavor combinations that allow you to taste the flavors of the food in its simplest form."
We found that the light sauces and grilling methods really enhanced the natural taste of the protein and vegetables. Teppan Yaki Dan currently features a Kanpai Tasting Menu for Two, offering great value for two entrees; choices are New York Strip, Teriyaki Chicken and Grilled Shrimp. You get all the accompaniments with two entrees for just $60.
Other specials include bottles of Momokawa Sake for 20 percent off the regular price. I tried the Silver Dry, which was crisp and delightful. Momokawa also has a Medium Dry and a lightly filtered, sweet Nigori Genshu sake. The restaurant offers a wide array of cocktails served from a full bar. It specializes in Soju (Korean clear spirit made from rice or other starch) and Sake cocktails; for example, the Sojutini is made with sake, soju, vodka, lime juice and simple syrup.
Just when we thought the meal couldn't get any better, we were presented with a dessert menu. Sheraton Maui has an outstanding pastry chef who prepares sweet creations for all the restaurants. The Green Tea Cheesecake is made with a light cream cheese infused with green tea and served with mango-vanilla sauce. A gluten-free Flour-less Chocolate Torte is drenched in rich dark chocolate and topped with fresh seasonal berries, chocolate and vanilla sauce.
Needless to say, the dining experience received rave reviews from all eight of us. Teppan Yaki Dan has only four tables, so the restaurant feels like home.
"It's really personalized in an intimate setting. It's a community thing," said Alexis Eaton, the resort's public relations manager. "We invite you to have a party here."
Teppan Yaki Dan is open for dinner seatings from 5:30 to 9 p.m., Tuesday through Saturday. For reservations, call 921-4600 or visit sheraton-maui.com.