By Chris Klint
Channel 2 News
6:24 PM AKDT, April 6, 2012
Kobe Teppayaki House
3400 Arctic Blvd.
$13.95 per plate
Lunch hours 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Saturday, dinner hours 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Saturday, Sunday hours 4 p.m. to 10 p.m.
Anchorage has several Asian grill establishments, including a Benihana franchise and Twin Dragons Mongolian Barbecue. They’re all great places to take a date for dinner, replete with mixed surf-and-turf menus, showy cooking skills -- and high prices -- but a Midtown establishment bucks the trend at midday.
Kobe Teppayaki House sits just north of the intersection of 36th Avenue and Arctic Boulevard, in an unassuming strip mall near the JC Penney Furniture Warehouse. The pedestrian exterior gives way to a dark and formal interior, with wood paneling throughout and about a dozen tables fitted with burners to accommodate the cooked-at-your-table style used for dinner service.
When reporter Ted Land and I walked into Kobe on a recent Thursday afternoon, we were immediately greeted and invited to take plates for the Japanese restaurant’s only lunch item: a buffet service ($13.95, drinks not included) that offers a wide selection from its overall dinner menu. One chef cooks hot dishes at a grill stand that offers yakisoba noodles as well as a rotating array of chicken, beef and seafood choices, while a side table provides sushi, egg rolls, steamed and fried rice and salad alongside Jell-O and fruit for dessert.
Among the first dishes I tried were the teriyaki chicken and beef bulgogi being replenished by the chef, each of them more than satisfying enough to make me come back for seconds. The chicken had a tangy touch that distinguished it from many examples of the dish I’ve had before, with a deep flavor cooked into it after marination. That was also true of the bulgogi beef, the Korean dish’s teriyaki-like sauce both stronger and saltier than any conventional teriyaki and making me remember my winter visit to Korean Garden in South Anchorage.
The yakisoba noodles are by far the best and most distinctive of the side choices available at Kobe, mildly flavored with chopped-up bits of onions and zucchini to yield a dish similar to stir-fry but not weighed down by the meat it usually contains as a main course. It’s even better fresh from the grill, as opposed to the rice choices kept in heated dishes at the side table; the fried rice is passable but unremarkable, and the steamed rice is simply a backdrop to other courses.
Other items included in the buffet also drew my attention, including a particularly good pork egg roll. Deliciously hot, crispy on the outside and dripping with juices when I bit into it, the egg roll singlehandedly brought my meal to a halt for several minutes as I sat back and savored it, then took a napkin to both my lips and fingertips. Our server also left small cups of miso soup at our table, which provided a relaxing and savory way to cleanse the palate between plates, its floating bits of sliced scallions offering hits of stronger flavor.
Ted went for the yakisoba over the fried rice like I did, quickly putting away his first plate but also taking a tour of Kobe’s seafood offerings. He could tell the shrimp he tried were fresh, having just watched the chef cook them; in addition, he said a crunch roll from the restaurant’s sushi selection was fresh and good. The restaurant’s modest but cheerful lunch crowd also drew his eye, and he appreciated the relative ease with which we found a table.
Lunch at Kobe by definition doesn’t offer the full dinner experience available in the evening, with a full menu of Japanese and Chinese specialties available. It does, however, offer one of the more competitive buffets in the Midtown area I’ve seen to date, as well as a good way to sample the restaurant’s repertoire and choose what you’d like on a return visit. It’s a trip I know I’ll be making, hopefully in the near future -- but not next week, since that’ll be up to Ted as he writes his first Lunchbox review.
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