What’s better than Japanese food? Japanese food and a great big fire. That is the pull of Ukai in Okemos, a hibachi grill with entertaining chefs, huge flames, and, oh yeah, excellent food.
We entered through the large wooden doors complete with lion pull rings. I’d like to see McDonald’s try to pull that off. We were led past the sushi bar and aquarium – I don’t think the fish were going to be dinner – and into the main dining area, which had eight tables. Each table could seat eight, and each had their own grill. So if you do the math, that equals a bunch of people and eight great big fires.
First off, I went for the large Sapporo, because that’s how I roll. Maybe you’re a Mai Tai person, maybe wine, maybe sake. I don’t know under which category you fall, but you have your options. I had hoped that my beer would come in a paper sack, but apparently, you have to order a Mad Dog to get one, and they were all out of Mad Dog.
I always get the teriyaki chicken, and this trip was no exception. The dinner start with salad and soup. I found it very hard to eat the soup with chopsticks, so I had to resort to the spoon. I know, I know – Japanese food fail. The soup seemed extra salty which is fine by me – salt is the fifth food group. And you know you love little chunks of tofu floating in your soup. Oh, lovely soy bean-based cubes.
But, man does not live by soy-based products in soup alone. (I think that’s from the Bible.) No, the star of my show was the teriyaki chicken. After the ninja chef was done doing his magic, I had a plate with chicken, fried rice, sprouts, onions, mushrooms, and a few shrimp appetizers. And there was a lot of food waiting anxiously in front of me… waiting for me to devour it.
And devour it I did. The teriyaki sauce wasn’t heavy and the chicken was nicely prepared. And there was a lot of it – no skimping at Ukai. If you go hungry, it’s your own fault. Besides tasty chicken, I like my fried rice with lots of egg, and that’s what I got – lucky me. And you may not get one of these, but we were there for my daughter’s sixth birthday dinner, and they brought out a boat carved out of a pineapple, along with an orange and Maraschino cherries skewed with little plastic swords.
Ukai is a great break from the ordinary restaurant scene. Good food, very nice servers and chefs, large Japanese beers, and fires that could take off your eyebrows – in other words, a recipe for a great outing.