The Ginza Teppanyaki on the Mansfield Road in Nottingham has been a feature of the City’s restaurant landscape for, I reckon, the better part of quarter of a century. I have certainly visited many, many times over the last 20 years.
It is the city’s only Teppanyaki (where the food is cooked in front of you by your own dedicated chef) and in its early days, when the food offer locally was, well, pretty limited by today’s standards, a visit to Ginza was something of a special occasion, wonderful fresh food (about the only place you saw your lobster live before being cooked) and the spectacle of your own chef juggling eggs and flambéing your steaks in front of you was something to behold.
Alas, nothing much as changed over all those years, and yet everything has. It is a couple of years since we last visited but we pitched up last Saturday for a 6pm booking. Ginza is not a cheap night out, it never was, but the spectacle, theatre and ambience made it something you would be willing to splash out on. Sadly, that is no longer the case.
The restaurant looks exactly as it always had. When we arrived (first through the doors but followed quickly by the other diners – it was then we realised there were two sittings) it was dark, cold and not very welcoming and it is very tired-looking, In the grey February early evening it looked really rather shabby.
We sat in the bar area and ordered drinks. The husband and I chose the Ginza Deluxe ( 8 courses plus tea) and the daughter (still meat free *sighs*) chose the Seafood Selection (7 courses plus tea.) The Deluxe – Salad, Half a Lobster, Salmon, Fillet Steak, Chicken, Egg Fried Rice, Vegetables, Miso Soup & Green Tea comes in at £28.50 a head and the Seafood Selection – Salad, Whole King Prawn, Cuttle Fish, Salmon, Egg Fried Rice, Vegetables, Miso Soup and Green Tea, comes in at £18,50.
As soon as we had ordered and before we had even taken 2 sips of our drinks we and everyone else, were ushered though to our tables (well, “stations” is probably a better description – you sit around two halves of a hot-plate sharing your side with around 8 people) From here on in, it is all pretty much a blur.
Waiting at each station are your chopsticks, a couple of dips and a bowl of salad. The salad (I could just make out in the gloom) was packet mixed leaves, slightly limp and browning around the edge with a bit of soft tomato and a blob (technical term) of something like commercial Thousand Island Dressing on the top. I took a couple of mouthfuls and passed on this.
The Chef still flamboyantly clacks his palate knives around, the lobster is still live (but brought out ready macheted), he still throws his eggs and still does the pyrotechnics ( will try to post some videos on my Twitter account) but…..somehow it all seemed a bit tired.
We ordered some hot Saki (from the waiting staff that stand rather intimidatingly in a row behind you) and then the food started to come out.
The half lobster was lovely, but I had hardly had time to finish my last mouthful before the shell was whisked away (no chance of sucking on the legs here!) and my Salmon was placed in front of me, perfectly nice (but somehow not the quality I recall), the garlic egg fried rice arrived and the Fillet steak and then the Chicken, the Miso Soup turned up at some point as well, but it was at such breakneck speed I can’t recall exactly when, and then the fried veg (which is pretty superfluous at this point as you haved wolfed down so much food so quickly that you have little space for a huge portion of beansprouts.
We did enjoy most of the food (salad notwithstanding) and the Daughter definately enjoyed her prawn, salmon and crayfish (albeit rapidly…)
If you lay your chopsticks down at this point, beware, the staff surround you and begin to remove everything, in fact even if you don’t put your chopsticks down they come over and “invite” you to move to a dark dreary corner at the side of the room for your tea (and pudding if wish).
We had arrived at 6pm and we were seated in our cold dark corner with our tea by 6.50 and they were setting the station back up for the next sitting which was was already congregating in the bar. So that was 8 courses served and cleared in 45 minutes.
This was not a relaxing experience. We felt as if they simply wanted us in and out in the shortest possible time and for £120 I expect more.
I used to love Ginza, it is not particularly authentic Japanese food, and was never cheap. But it was fun, a bit of theatre with a great communal atmosphere. I am left now thinking it is in need of a serious overhaul and a refresh and it simply isn’t worth the money. Moreover, we felt as if our custom was taken for granted, we were rushed in and out and it simply wasn’t very pleasant. I don’t think Ginza can rely on the “novelty” factor any more, with so much quality competition and so, reluctantly, I don’t think we will be going back.