Sunday, November 13, 2011

Wild Chef Japanese Steakhouse, 3303 Alpine, Walker - 10/25/11

This restaurant is well-established in Holland, and the owners recently took over the very large, old Bennigans building for their second location. You will see some Bennigans layout remaining but teppanyaki grill tables now fill most of the space, a large dining area floor has been raised to the main floor level, and the bar is now also a sushi bar. The renovations and the real estate had to be pricey, and I hope they make it. 
The teppanyaki-style restaurant originated in Japan in the 1940s and it was discovered, not surprisingly, that foreigners were more interested in an elaborate chef show than were the Japanese. One thing led to another, and in 1964, a wrestler named Hiroaki “Rocky” Aoki opened the first Benihana in New York City.
You know the style, you know the show, and here in Grand Rapids it could/can be experienced at the Shangai Garden (now gone) and at Ichiban, both of which feature(d) a Chinese wing and a Japanese wing.

Wild Chef is purely Japanese. We opted out from a teppanyaki table (sometimes called hibachis and many would claim to differ) and took a booth, a few of which are grouped together to one side of the bar.
Service was friendly, prompt, and informative and we finally decided to start with Yakotori: Japanese-style chicken kabob brushed with teriyaki sauce. Very flavorful and beautifully presented, it comes highly recommended and we would have gladly eaten more.
An annoying rap-rock soundtrack was playing loudly (an owner’s iPod, as we discovered) and before we said anything, we heard our server ask her to change it (shades of Shiraz). The younger one of us may have mentioned that the older one of us is just getting too old, but as the older one, I’m sticking to my point that restaurant music should enhance the dining experience, not distract from it.

Sushi is half off Sunday - Thursday, and the younger went for it with spicy tuna and spider rolls. Spider rolls with the fried soft shell crab filling were a huge hit, and the tuna rolls came in second as not being very spicy. Sushi fans should check out this restaurant and we think you will be favorably impressed.
Our second entree was Yakiniku, marinated sirloin in garlic, ginger, and Japanese spices. The thinly sliced meat was tender and a taste treat, particularly if you love garlic and ginger, which I do. It was accompanied by crisp vegetables, well-prepared rice with its own delicious white sauce, and ginger sauce for the meat and vegetables. 
Arriving before this was onion soup and a green salad with a house dressing. We are big fans of their house-made dressings and sauces, and the way all of the food was prepared and presented.
We’ll have to go back for the show sometime, and for you rowdy groups, there is a private party room that seats 20 around the grills (the converted Bennigan pop station). But it seemed a little tight.
Instead, opt for tables in the dining rooms. If you don’t like the show, you will enjoy the food. 
You may like them on Facebook (with “steakhouse” as one word). (The paper menu uses two words and their website uses one. On Urbanspoon, the Holland location uses two, and the Grand Rapids, one. But now we’re just being picayune.) Regardless of how you spell steakhouse, you will find this restaurant worthy of your time and money.
Wild Chef Japanese Steakhouse on Urbanspoon