“Where I went in my travels, it’s impossible for me to recall. I remember the sights and sounds and smells clearly enough, but the names of the towns are gone, as well as any sense of the order in which I traveled from place to place.”
― Haruki Murakami,
Teppan Baby in Shinjuku is cooler than a Japanese pickled cucumber. Located in the basement level on a busy Shinjuku street, the interior is adorned with light birch-wood tables and a huge projector screen plays videos on a loop. After hearing only good things about Teppan Baby, we managed to secure a seat just after 8pm on a Saturday with only a 10 minute wait.
To our delight, we were settled in front of the large hot plate so that we could watch the cooks skilfully fry and flip small plates of teppanyaki delights.
Teppan Baby offers an all you can drink + food set menu for 40,000JPY per person. We were concerned that the unlimited drinks would be restricted to beer – not something that agrees with my stomach. However, the drinks offered in the set menu include sake, umeshu, shochu and whisky highballs – which was too difficult to pass up.
We began with a zesty salad of bean shoots, salty edamame beans and fried beancurd served with thick, kewpie mayo. Alongside the sweetest of sweet umeshu’s, we began to roll through this set menu journey.
Next arrived a portion of melty sukiyaki beef. The beef was cooked until it tenderly fell apart when prodded with my bamboo chopstick.
Then a plate of fresh calamari with a reviving lemon slice. Both of these dishes were so flavoursome. In between, we demolished a vial of crisp, cold sake.
The freshly grilled chicken morsels were decadently buttery in texture. By this point, it was difficult to keep up with all the small plates that were being paraded in front of us!
We were presented with a menu of okonomiyaki varieties to choose from. While there were very intriguing options, we decided upon the classic okonomiyaki as we had not yet enjoyed this traditional Japanese pancake dish yet during our adventures. Watching the cook expertly sprinkle the ingredients onto the hell-fire hot plate, sweeping with her spatula to ensure the right amount of char was achieved was a show in itself. The pancake was dense and the bbq sauce on top added a lick of sweetness. This was admittedly my least favourite of the dishes but perhaps only because the others had outstripped my expectations.
We were quizzed whether we had enough room for the garlic rice. We were satisfied following the okonomiyaki (and 4 or 5 glasses of sake) but we opted to try the rice. The garlic to rice mixture was about 50/50 which surprised me but I quote J in that it was “the best rice ever”. Quite a feat for a common staple.
To finish, a spoonful of vanilla bean ice cream was attempted. I had to pass mine to Joe as I feared my sides would well and truly split if I introduced anything else into my belly.
Teppan Baby has a great vibe and the staff are cheery and helpful. Their command of English is also excellent and they are able to guide you through the menu. My tip is to try and get a place at the hot plate so that you can watch the action.