The far corner of Ala Moana's Makai Market has been vacant in the years since it was Chinatown Express and I Love Country Cafe. Most famously home to Patti's Chinese Kitchen, it was once slated to become a Korean food hall concept (which I eagerly`awaited). Earlier this year all speculation was put to rest when Steak Teppei announced it was opening its first U.S. location at Ala Moana Center.
The Tokyo-based chain opened last week with a menu of steak, loco moco and garlic shrimp plates and donburi bowls. Judging by the videos that loop on the televisions, there's more coming like garlic fried rice, garlic butter fish and pork loin. All entrees are cooked up to order on teppan grills right before you, a la Teppanyaki Farmer, and served in takeout containers.
The sounds and scents of garlic, butter and beef hitting the hot teppan grill are very alluring. I order the signature crazy garlic steak plate ($15.99) to see what it's all about. Except for the loco moco, all plates include mashed potatoes, rice and cabbage salad while bowls omit the mash. You're offered a choice of Garlic Punch, sukiyaki sweet or wasabi spicy sauce. Any extra sauce can be had for $1 more.
I order my crazy garlic steak with the Garlic Punch shoyu-based sauce. Opening the plate, I find it also comes with a super pungent garlic dressing for your cabbage salad (this also works great as a steak dip) and a small container of garlic butter. Vampires beware — this plate is potent!
The plate holds what looks to be about 8 ounces of ribeye, making it a decent portion for $16 with two starchy sides. I pick at the mashed potato and the rice (the better of the two) and fill up before finishing either.
Steaks are cooked medium, teppanyaki style, resulting in tender, bite-sized morsels covered in that unctuous garlic butter. If you prefer your steak cooked to a different temperature, let them know when you're ordering your meal.
In Japan, Steak Teppei offers various cuts of steak ranging from 150 grams (5.3 ounces) to 300 grams (10.6 ounces) in a full-service environment. For an introductory taste, Makai Market is the perfect proving ground with lower prices for the food court location.
Teppei joins Aloha Steakhouse Waikiki as another casual steak option with Japanese sensibilities, the main difference again being the setting and price.
Also coming to Makai Market: In August, Ramen Bario opens its second location in Honolulu next to Steak Teppei. The Tokyo-based shop is also renowned for its unabashed use of garlic and a thick unskimmed tonkotsu broth that Frolic's Eric Baranda cannot get enough of.
My remaining words of advice: Pack some mints or everyone's going to know you came here for lunch.
(Inside Makai Market)
1450 Ala Moana Blvd.
Mon-Sat 9:30 a.m. - 9 p.m.
Sun 10 a.m. - 7 p.m.