Vegas Mike, head chef at Iron Chef Japanese Restaurant in Puyallup, entertains and cooks for customers (from left) Phil Mitchell, Sophie Mitchell, Michael Cassimore, and Egle Kupstyte. Peter Haley/The News Tribune
Iron Chef Japanese Steakhouse
Where: 4301 S. Meridian St., Suite A, Puyallup
Hours: 11:30 a.m.-2 p.m. for lunch and 5-10 p.m. weekdays for lunch; 2-10 p.m. Saturdays and 2-9 p.m. Sundays.
Price Range: $15-$50
Editor’s Note: Here is today’s Drop-In Dining Report about a new or new-to-us restaurant. Reporters drop in unannounced and sample the food, on TNT’s dime, then report what the scene and food was like. Have a suggestion for a drop-in dining feature? E-mail us at email@example.com.
By Craig Hill
The scene: If you lived on South Hill five years ago, you might have shopped for your produce where the Iron Chef is now located. The restaurant is in the corner of what used to be a Safeway. With its high coffee-brown walls and exposed-beam ceilings, not only does the building no longer feel like a grocery store, but inside you barely feel like you’re in Puyallup. The waitresses are dressed in sandals and kimonos and the chefs are also adorned in Japanese garb.
Guests sit around one of 14 iron griddles as the teppanyaki chefs creatively prepare their meals. Each chef has their own style, but you’re likely to see them spinning eggs on their spatulas, juggling and starting off dinner by igniting a large fireball on the griddle.
If your party is smaller than 10 people, it’s likely you’ll share the table with another group.
Expect lots of noise, which could make conversation tough.
Type of food: This Japanese steak house has many of the staples you’ll find in traditional steakhouses, such as filet mignon, chicken, shrimp, scallops and lobster. The twist is in the teppanyaki. The Iron Chef menu defines teppanyaki as "grilled cooking right before your eyes." All dinners come with salad, soup, rice, prawns, vegetables, hot tea and a scoop of rainbow sherbet.
Menu highlights: The chefs make sure pretty much anything you order is a highlight. However, owner Sungmi Moon says the most popular order is steak and shrimp.
The Iron Chef has an extensive bar, but its four specialty drinks are most popular, Moon said. The Ninja, Sumo, Geisha and Banzai ($5 each) are all fruity alcoholic beverages served in pint-size glasses.
People in the kitchen: Moon, who goes by Diane, opened the Iron Chef on May 29 and says South Hill residents regularly ask her what took so long. Iron Chef was due to open more than a year ago under another owner, Moon said. She took over the restaurant shortly before it opened. Moon is the sister of Kwan "Alex" Lee, owner of Lacey’s two-year-old Fuji Japanese Steak House.
Iron Chef has a 21-person staff including five chefs. Moon says all of her chefs have at least five years of experience.
Dining notes: Our four-person party took a wide sampling of the Iron Chef menu in our 90-minute dining experience.
We ordered the salmon ($16.99), the second-least-expensive menu on the item behind the $14.99 vegetarian platter.
And we ordered the Iron Imperial ($39.99), $8 more expensive than any other dinner. The Imperial comes with lobster, filet mignon cooked to order and shrimp.
We also ordered the scallop and lobster ($28.99) and the steak, chicken and lobster ($31.99).
While we all thoroughly enjoyed our orders, the chef noticed our eyes lustfully looking at each other’s plates. So he occasionally flipped us small samples of what our friends where eating.
Our chef gave us each two tasty dipping sauces – a brown sauce for meat and a yellow sauce for seafood. Considering our lack of Japanese steakhouse experience, he also helped us out with tips on which sauce and how-much sauce to use to get the best taste from our dinner.
Considering the prices of the meals, we were a bit surprised that we were charged an extra $3.50 to upgrade an order of steamed rice to fried rice. However, we figured it was worth the extra charge to watch the chef flip an egg in the air and catch it in his hat while he prepared the rice.
Service: We were escorted promptly to our table even though half our party arrived a few minutes after our 6:15 p.m. reservation time. Our waitress forgot to bring us our sake (Japanese rice wine) but then remembered without us reminding her and did not charge us for the drink.
Most unexpected moment: As our chef fired up his grill, we were prepared for the fireball that rose from the grill because it’s pretty hard not to notice the same dramatic act at other tables. But when the chef suddenly stuck his flaming right index finger out and asked us to blow it out we were too surprised to comply until he gave us a jokingly panicked reminder: "Blow!"
Wild card: You better let your chef know if you aren’t feeling coordinated. As our chef prepared fried rice, he occasionally used his spatula to flip balls of rice in our direction. The idea was for us to catch the rice in our mouths. We went three-for-four at our table with one rice ball ending up on the floor.
No worries, though. You only have to eat the rice you catch.