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Asian Trilogy

[whitespace] Kingswood Teppan Steak House
Christopher Gardner

Heated Moment: The chefs play with fire at Kingswood Teppan Steak House in Cupertino.

Kingswood Teppan thrills with its mastery of three Eastern culinary styles: teppan, shabu-shabu and sushi

By Andrew X. Pham

KINGSWOOD IS Cupertino's Jack of three trades, grilling teppan, simmering shabu-shabu and rolling sushi all at once. In fact, this newcomer from Los Angeles is the first restaurant in Silicon Valley ambitious enough to put all three Japanese specialties under one roof. Moreover, it couldn't have picked a more competitive location: Cupertino Village, a hotbed of Asian dining.

Fortunately, Kingswood has the second most attractive dining room in this mall. Tier seating and wood trims make the restaurant look intimate from the outside, although the interior is actually open and airy. The entire place is dressed in Shogun black and red with yards of gray carpeting. Mirrors bank a bar at the rear. Uncovered tables claim two-thirds of the floor.

In the teppan arena, four table griddles are horseshoed with seats, accommodating up to four dozen diners. The best thing about Kingswood's setting is its intimate configuration. A diner can watch the antics of any of the four teppan chefs. This is good, because teppan dining is inherently interactive, especially suitable for large groups.

Solo diners and small groups (any number less than 10) are seated around the teppan on a first-come, first-served basis. Seating usually takes anywhere from 10 to 15 minutes as the hostess waits for patrons to arrive. The fun starts when the chef carts out the food and begins to prep the grill. The meal can be as sedate or as rowdy as the guests choose. Most teppan chefs perform in accordance with an audience's mood. The toque-wearing chefs are decent, though only half have mastered the flashy knife tricks. The real flash is in their cooking.

Our favorite items were sautéed mushroom, steak and sand-dollar-sized scallops. The sliced beef and mutton are not suited for this type of cooking; gossamer meats tend to turn too tough or get overwhelmed by sauces. A side of stir-fried zucchini sticks with sweet onions, drenched in garlic butter, is excellent, cooked to crunchy perfection. The fried rice is delicious with one egg, butter and diced vegetables.

Originating in Japan, shabu-shabu has become a favorite style of eating across Asia, particularly in Taiwan and Hong Kong. Each diner cooks his own food by dipping raw morsels into a steaming broth. In Japan, ingredients are generally limited to wafer-thin slices of beef or lamb, shiitake mushrooms, scallions, Chinese cabbage, tofu, wheat gluten, chrysanthemum leaves, bamboo shoots, daikon and kelp.

Kingswood boasts all the above and more than a dozen other items, including pork, chicken, liver, fish filets, fish balls, squid and vegetables. The special broth here is spicy with chile, definitely a Chinese shabu-shabu trademark. The basic sauces are present as well: a light citron-based ponzu sauce and another made of toasted ground white sesame seeds, dashi, soy sauce, mirin, sugar and sake.

Each shabu-shabu table is equipped with a portable cooker, serving up to four diners who share a communal pot. On top of the price per dish--which ranges from $2.75 to $3.95 for usual items and from $4.50 to $8 for seafood ($15.50 for lobster)--the restaurant charges $3.50 per person for shabu-shabu service. This figures to roughly $12 per person for lunch and $16 for dinner--more for folks with big appetites.

Teriyaki and sushi rate fair to good. The former makes a good alternate entree, but the latter is limited to the usual California rolls, salmon, eel, yellowtail and such, thus relegating them to appetizers and side dishes.

Good service, lots of food and a pleasing ambiance--what more can one need? Kingswood does Japanese cuisine the American way: choices, choices and more choices.

Kingswood Teppan Steak House
Cuisine: Japanese teppan and Chinese shabu-shabu
Ambiance: Business casual
Menu: Teppan $7-$17, entrees $7-$13
Hours: Daily 11:30am-3pm and 5:30-11pm
Address: 10935 N. Wolfe Road, Cupertino
Phone: 408/255-5928

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From the October 29-November 4, 1998 issue of Metro.

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