There seems to be no shortage of hibachi-style restaurants in the Chattanooga area, but I wanted to try one of the classics: Kanpai of Tokyo. It boasts a national history of nearly 40 years, and I wanted to see if the restaurant did things well. I'm a big fan of hibachi-style restaurants, and Kanpai, near Hamilton Place mall, gives guests dinner and entertainment. The chefs cook your food in front of you while entertaining your table with a showcase of culinary thrills.
Kanpai has a traditional hibachi menu with lots of options for hungry diners such as Hibachi Chicken ($14.95), Hibachi Steak ($17.50, 8 ounces) and Filet Mignon ($25.95, 8 ounces). If you're looking for the hibachi experience but know it'll be too much food, the restaurant allows guests to share a meal. But they do unfortunately add a $7 charge. The "Dinner for Two" ($48.75) may be a good option for couples. It comes with soup, salad, a flaming shrimp appetizer, steamed rice, hibachi vegetables, hot tea, sherbet and your choice of sirloin steak, scallops, yakiniku, chicken or shrimp. Kanpai also offers dinner combinations such as Chicken and Shrimp ($18.50), Hibachi Seafood ($18.95) and Sirloin and Lobster ($34.95). To my surprise, the sushi chef was sick the night we ate there, so there was no sushi available. This was a big disappointment because my wife and I will generally split a roll of sushi as an appetizer.
Where: Kanpai of Tokyo, 2200 Hamilton Place Blvd.
Hours: 11:30 a.m.-2 p.m. (lunch) and 5-9 p.m. (dinner) Monday-Saturday, noon-2 p.m. (lunch) and 5-8 p.m. (dinner) Sunday.
Price range: $7.95 (Hibachi Chicken, lunch portion)-$34.95 (Lobster dinner combination).
I ordered the Sirloin Steak and Shrimp combination ($20.95), while my wife tried the Hibachi Seafood ($18.95), which has both shrimp and scallops. Both entrees came with soup and salad. Different from most hibachi-style restaurants, the Kanpai salad dressing is mustard-based rather than the usual ginger-based. While I would have preferred the ginger dressing, I can appreciate the attempt to be unique. Both of our dishes were served with generous portions of fried rice and hibachi vegetables. My wife's scallops and shrimp were both flavorful and cooked well. My steak, cooked medium, was very tender, and I found the white sauce at Kanpai to be unique. While most are sweet and sugary, theirs was spicy with quite a kick.
Though our drinks never ran dry, our server seemed more eager to leave for the night than please customers at his table. For instance, after dropping off the checks, he leaned against a nearby table, waiting for each party to pay. It was late, shortly before 9 p.m., but I would have appreciated being able to linger and enjoy my meal instead of feeling forced to pay quickly.
Granted, it's surely hard to keep a restaurant cool when one of its signatures is to create a ball of fire in front of your table, but the temperature inside Kanpai was hot. The fan near our table did nothing to cool down the room. Additionally, the floor seemed to have more than a day's worth of dirt. Overall, the restaurant didn't feel clean, and judging by the online comments of other diners, I'm not the only one who felt that way.
Kanpai is a great restaurant for special occasions. Two birthdays were being celebrated while we dined. With nearly 40 years of experience, it's easy to see how people come back for the portions and entertainment. However, with so many other hibachi-style dining options, I'll keep looking.