Menuplease at Kobe: The Tom Jones of Restaurants

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To look at the impressive faux-Italianate façade on the new restaurant at the corner of Shasta and Market Streets – the Sherven Square complex – you’d think that, well, a Tuscan restaurant was housed there. There’s nothing Asian about the terra-cotta colored exterior and the false shutters on second-story windows. The cheesecake portrait of a – what? Teppanyaki warrior? – on the southwest wall that might be at home on a black velvet canvas. Walk inside and it’s, “Toto, we’re not in Roma any more.”

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Clearly a lot of money was poured into the ultra-modern design, though it can’t seem to make up its mind as to whether it’s industrial chic or ersatz Vegas glitz.

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The cocktail bar-cum-sushi bar is sleek with burnished metal counters and minimalist décor and subtle lighting. Femme de Joie recently perched herself at Kobe‘s bar, waiting for an old friend who wanted to go there for her birthday. A glass of Folie a Deux 2004 Zinfandel (Amador County) was a luscious rich treat; too bad that for $7 the pour was rather skimpy.

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Seating is available at the sushi bar, at the communal teppanyaki tables, or at smaller tables for ordering items from the kitchen. Birthday Girl wanted teppanyaki, so that is where we sat, along with about six other diners. The idea is to watch the show: the setup is not geared toward conversation, which became evident when M. de Joie – seated next to Birthday Girl – could see B.G.’s lips moving but could only catch about every fourth word she said. It was that noisy.

The procedure for teppanyaki goes thusly: You order your choice of meat or fish – New York steak, chicken, salmon, etc. Soup and salad are brought by waitresses, as you watch the chef go through his schtick to prepare the rest of the meal. Onion soup (miso is also available) was a bit oily and had a few rings of onion in a thin broth accented with soy. In a Tom Waitsian moment, the wasabi-ginger dressing beat up the bowl of iceberg lettuce … the lettuce just wasn’t strong enough to defend itself.

Meanwhile, back at the teppanyaki table: the chef had done a baton routine with spatulas, tossed a raw egg around, and emptied large bowls of cold cooked rice and prepped vegetables onto the grill. He piled up onion rings, poured cooking oil inside the tower, and set it on fire. He flipped bite-sized pieces of vegetable at each diner, none of whom actually caught it in their mouths (it is to be hoped someone versed in the Heimlich maneuver is on staff at all times).

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First cooked is the fried rice, which then is scooped up and placed on each diner’s plate, followed by grilled assorted vegetables and two shrimp. Then the meat and fish are added to the grill, cooked, seasoned, cut up, and distributed to the diners who ordered them. Two small bowls of sauce are available for dipping, including an addictive lemon-pepper Yum Yum sauce.

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Teppanyaki Scallops

The scallops were perfectly cooked, tender, and moist, possibly the best scallops M. de Joie has ever had. The fried rice, when freshly cooked, was delicious, but as it cooled M. de Joie became acutely aware of how salty it was. M. de Joie adores salty foods like Parmesan cheese, anchovies, potato chips, and smoked fish, but the salt added by the chef on top of soy sauce made the rice mega-sodium-heavy. Mixed vegetables were adequate but seemed to be just filling up space on the plate. There was nothing special about them.

We were seated at 5:30 p.m. By 6:30 the show was over, the other diners at our table had departed, and there was a line out Kobe’s door. Waitresses were looking pointedly in B.G. and M. de Joie‘s direction. The menu had listed several interesting desserts, such as panna cotta and blackberry sorbet ($6 each) but no one offered us a dessert menu or suggested we move elsewhere to continue dining. The bill – salmon, scallops, two glasses of wine – came to $55, not including tip. And frankly, M. de Joie was not exactly stuffed.

The lines out the door indicated that Kobe is doing something right to bring the crowds in, but whether it will endure once the novelty factor wears off is yet to be seen. For Femme de Joie, dinner at Kobe is the culinary equivalent of a Tom Jones concert. There’s lots of shaking and stirring, a whole lotta showboating, renditions of the greatest hits, and then it’s all over and we need to clear the theater for the next show. Move along, please. To be sure, it’s entertaining, but you’re paying for all that showmanship. The food is secondary.

Kobe Steak and Seafood, 1300 Market Street, Redding, 530-244-1440. Open daily. Sushi bar. Lunch and dinner. Reservations recommended. Sake, wine, and beer. Street parking. Cash and credit/debit cards.

Femme de Joie’s first culinary masterpiece was at age 4, when she made the perfect fried bologna sandwich on white bread. Since then she has dined on horse Bourguignon in France, stir-fried eel in London, and mystery meat in her college cafeteria, but firmly draws the line at eating rattlesnake, peppermint and Hamburger Helper. She lives in Shasta County at her country estate, Butterscotch Acres West. She is nearly always hungry. Visit MenuPlease for more.

A News Cafe, founded in Shasta County by Redding, CA journalist Doni Greenberg, is the place for people craving local Northern California news, commentary, food, arts and entertainment.

Femme de Joie
Femme de Joie's first culinary masterpiece was at age 4, when she made the perfect fried bologna sandwich on white bread. Since then she has dined on horse Bourguignon in France, stir-fried eel in London, and mystery meat in her college cafeteria, but firmly draws the line at eating rattlesnake, peppermint and Hamburger Helper. She lives in Shasta County at her country estate, Butterscotch Acres West. She is nearly always hungry. Visit MenuPlease for more or send her an email at femmedejoiefood@yahoo.com.
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17 Responses

  1. Avatar Adrienne jacoby says:

    EXCELLENT REVIEW . . . and pretty much reflected my experience. I hope the various kinks are worked out and that they are successful enough to stay around for a while. It's true that the showmanship is a large part of the attraction at this point, but they are going to have to offer more than just showmanship to generate the power for longevity. Me too . . . my scollops were PERFECT!!! . . . but the rest was pretty salty.

    What a great idea that they suggest moving to another table for dessert. My party ended up moving to a bar table for after dinner drinks, but it was our idea and not suggested by any of the wait staff. Maybe they feel people would be offended by such a suggestion. Maybe it could be suggested in the menu?

  2. Avatar Pat j. says:

    As always, your article was enjoyable . Think I'll pass on this place though. Part of the dining expercience is enjoying the conversation.

  3. Avatar Stephanie Luke says:

    How refreshing to find an honest review. Usually there are mainly puff pieces here. Thanks for this. I will know what to expect if I ever get around to dining here.

  4. Avatar Grammalyn says:

    I disagree. The building also houses a portrait studio, a travel agency, three apartments and a soon-to-be delicatessen. Making it an "Asian looking" building to reflect the Japanese restaurant would look very odd on that corner.

    I have been there for lunch three times, with three different sets of friends. The food was absolutely outstanding! The NY steak was so tender and flavorful that I haven't even tried the filet mignon.

    To me it is obvious that a teppenyaki table isn't conducive to much conversation. To begin with, you most likely are sharing the table with strangers so that would indicate to me that serious conversations need to take place somewhere else.

    Differing opinions are what make the world go round, but I personally loved the restaurant and would go back every single week if I could. Their prices, I think, are reasonable as well…$10.95 for the NY steak lunch which comes with soup, rice, veggies and enough steak. I've paid more than that for a salad in town.

  5. Avatar Matt Grigsby says:

    I think the restaurant looks interesting, but it sounds to me like perhaps they're still working things out with the food. I can get salty Chinese food anywhere in town, and I don't need a fancy show to get it.

  6. Avatar Sara says:

    Great review! We ate there several weeks ago my husband had sushi and I don't even remember what I ate. Thought the service was lacking and the food only so-so. My husband loves Kenji's sushi and It's quiet and not that expensive!

  7. Avatar BBill says:

    Nice review. As an earlier responder said "It's nice to get an honest review" and not just pandering the platter, so to speak.
    considering the pros and cons:
    Pros: entertaining chef (not sure I like the idea of throwing food at me) modern decor, and authentic Japanese cooking (I always loved Japanese restaurants in SF bay area)
    But since I'm not much for scallops (they always had a bitter aftertaste, nor too-salty seasoned items, veggies for show, and a "too loud to talk" atmosphere, we may well take a wait and see approach to dining there for now.
    Sara's comments: "…service was lacking and the food only so-so, plus she couldn't remember what she had, leads me to believe that we may not ever go.
    Redding has a reputation (at least for me) that NEW things, i.e. restaurants, clubs, theatrical shows, and entertainment, seem to be the HOT item and well attended (even to the point of SOLD OUT SHOWS)
    But, after a year or less… Redding-ites seem to forget and stop patronizing, thereby leaving the poor host(s) without patrons, attendees, and they sadly, go out of business.
    Good Luck, seems like they'll either need it, or wake up and give the public what it wants… lots of food, good service, at reasonable prices. And decently full GLASS OF WINE for the price.

  8. Avatar Susan Daugherty says:

    I will go to Kobe's again – but more for the novelty than the food. The grandgirls like the show and that makes it worth it. I had shrimp and fried rice and thought the leftovers tasted great the next day. I think that the lunch prices are more reasonable than the dinner prices…but maybe it's that darn glass of wine with dinner!

    When I was there, a couple of the women at the table asked the chef to, please, not toss food to them. He didn't listen. Luckily they were good sports – seems like it might really irritate some diners.

    I believe that Kobe's is the place of choice for a 17th birthday next week – those scallops are lookin' pretty good to me.

  9. Avatar gamerjohn says:

    I believe the design for the entire building was approved before the main area was leased for a Japanese restaurant, so blaming the building for the style is not fair. In the Bay area I worked at a place that went to Bennihanna's once a month or so for 6 six years. The chefs acts got old after a short while. What kept us returning was the high quality of the food.

    If Kobe keeps the quality high they will last. Problems with service are more common here than places where they get paid better.

  10. Avatar Sheila Barnes says:

    My husband and I went recently and generally enjoyed ourselves. We also chose the teppaynaki style of eating. The host who greeted us at the table was VERY full of energy and charming. He made sure that, once we were served the meal, to check to see if we needed anything. I agree that the soup and salad were so-so, but the main dish – I had the chicken and N.Y. steak – was quite good. I also agree about the meager amount of wine in my glass – seemed like the glass was only half full if that much. Our host DID ask us if we wanted desert after we asked for boxes to take home leftovers. Perhaps it was because of the early hour – it was only around six o'clock and the restaurant was not crowded. The thing, also about teppanyaki eating, is you cannot choose who you sit with unless you go with your own large group. Unfortunately, one fellow in the group at our table was a boorish buffoon – and loud as well. That was not the restaurant's fault. Luckily for us, this group did not stay for desert so we were able to have our green tea ice cream in peace.

  11. Avatar leslie smith says:

    you should check out the food at the Woodside grill in Anderson. Their menu has changed and the food is great.

    • Avatar Dolores Ellis says:

      Not any more! Serveral months ago I had a wonderful meal featuring meat loaf at Goya. Last week I returned and ordered the same meal. It was far from the standard set by the first meal. The meat loaf was obviously old and had been reheated. In fact it was tough. My dinner companion agreed that the meal was a disappointment and a far cry from our experience several month ago.

  12. Avatar Joanne Lobeski Snyde says:

    I love that this food critic brings to my attention restaurants in town. My methods of evaluation are totally different than the Femme de Joie, but her critiques give me information I need. Facade and presentation mean nothing to me. Is the food good? Is the meal worth the price?

  13. Dugan Barr Dugan Barr says:

    Once again, I think F de J has her nose in the air. I agree that Kobe's service has been a little spotty. That frequently happens with new restaurants. However, I have been in this place a half dozen times since it opened, and have enjoyed the food very much. Steak, scallops and prawns are all very good. The veggies are perfectly cooked, with just the right amount of residual crunch. They are also very nicely seasoned. I would also suggest that F de J could stand to visit the Miracle Ear guy. I have never had trouble hearing any of the people I was dining with, male or female. I also have never had trouble avoiding the exercise of attempting to catch a piece of thoroughly cooked egg in my mouth be simply telling them I decline. It is interesting that F de J did not get enough to eat. I am a pretty good sized guy and I have never cleaned my plate. My law partner and I took our office staff there for lunch one day. Everyone enjoyed it very much. This is as diverse a group of outspoken people as you have ever seen. If any of them had not been happy, we would have known about it.

    I do have two criticisms. It can be tough to flag somebody down for a glass of wine if you are waiting at the bar for your dining companion or for a table. In addition, they have a policy of not seating someone at the teppanyaki table until their entire party is there. That makes sense in the usual case, considering how the system works. However when we took our entire office there, we had reservations for all the seats at a teppanyaki table, so the policy made no sense in that instance.

  14. Avatar Natalie says:

    Our lunch group went to Kobe a couple of weeks ago. We sat at the dining room tables. Most ordered Bento Box lunches. They were fine, but I think the quality and service is actually better at Tokyo Garden, and the parking and prices are easier to deal with.

  15. Avatar ss says:

    wasn't even that impressed with the show; no spontaneity; bad imitation of Benihana; and thought food overall was mediocre; rice was cold by time anything else arrived;no one offered to bring hot or otherwise replenish; quantities skimpy; although scallops were well prepared; beer was good and cold, but that's the best that can be said; once was definitely enough.

    too bad; had hoped for something more–something a little upscale perhaps? instead this was an adult version of Chucky Cheese.