Cross-posted from Calgary is Awesome.
As a dietitian, I often counsel my clients on making healthy choices while eating out. Making sure you don't get screwed over by huge portion sizes and "hidden" calories is important, but at the same time, you still want to leave room to celebrate and indulge. I always say, whenever you go out, ask yourself - are you eating out because it's convenient (i.e. you'd rather sleep in than pack a lunch or it's custom for your family to go out for supper every week) or because it's a celebration? If you find yourself at Japanese Village, chances are you're celebrating something, and you should just worry about having fun instead of worrying about what you're putting in your mouth. Last week we went there to celebrate my brother's birthday.
Instead of serving sushi, Japanese Village focuses on another aspect of Japanese cuisine called "teppan yaki", which literally means, "cooking on a metal grill". Customers are seated around a flat metal grill, where the chef prepares the food while telling corny jokes ("Japanese mushrooms... from my basement!"), showing off his knife skills, and starting mini-fires. The optimal party size is eight people; any larger or smaller number will most likely result in having others sitting at your table (which could be fun too ;) )
The set meals range from $19.25 for teriyaki steak or chicken up to $43 for the lobster and steak meal, with most of the meals sliding in under $30. All meals come with soup, salad, shrimp, vegetables, rice, green tea and ice cream, which makes it a pretty good deal, considering you're getting dinner and a "show". The menu also features a few appetizers like tempura and edamame, but there is so much food in the meals themselves that these appetizers are not necessary.
Our meal started off with an egg drop soup and a small garden salad. The soup was a little bland, especially compared to the miso soup that is usually offered at most Japanese restaurants. The garden salad had crisp, fresh vegetables tossed in a light ginger dressing.
The chef put about half a dozen pieces of shrimp on our plates before tossing one in the ginger sauce, which was for seafood and vegetables. The shrimp was delicious, partly because of the globs of butter that the chef dropped on it before serving it up. The ginger sauce didn't really taste like ginger, but added a salty, almost tangy note to the shrimp and vegetables.
The vegetables, which were a mix of onions, mushroom, zucchini and bean sprouts flavoured with soya sauce and sesame seeds, created a pleasing blend of textures and flavours.
For the main event, I ordered the salmon teriyaki, and I was drooling as my salmon was cooking on the grill until the chef drowned it in dark, sticky teriyaki sauce. The "drowning in sauce" was a common theme of the chef that we had - some people from the party sitting next to us had ordered the shrimp meal, and their shrimp were covered in Hollandaise sauce (which the chef simply referred to as "yummy sauce"). Then he offered to ladle the Japanese steak sauce over our rice! As an "Asian food snob", I of course refused. Nonetheless, I still enjoyed the salmon, which was surprisingly not overcooked and tough, despite the fact that it did sit on the grill for some time.
I also got to try some NY steak from my mom; the cut was so tender that it felt like it melted in my mouth, and the green garlic butter that the chef melted over it imparted a hint of flavour and definitely played a part in the rich texture.
For an extra $3.50, you can embarrass your loved one by having them dress up as a Samurai couple and forced to dance as the staff sing a rowdy Japanese tune, complete with drums. I swear, practically every table was celebrating a birthday when we were there! On Sunday nights, there's also a magician who wanders around the restaurant, performing little sleights of hand.
The only thing that's not so awesome about Japanese Village is that none of the meals are vegetarian, so if you are a herbivore, you should probably take your celebration elsewhere. Hang tight for next week though; I will be writing about a place that offers lots of vegetarian options.
Japanese Village Steak House
317 10 Ave SW
Calgary AB T2R 0A5