Traditional teppanyaki experience at Zen

Zen Teppanyaki Restaurant, a new dining place for relaxation in Garapan, is set to open its doors on July 11 and will showcase traditional teppanyaki cooking complete with the dramatic flare that the Japanese style of cooking is known for.

Japanese chef Naoji Wada will be leading the team behind the iron plate grill and is all set to demonstrate the skills he learned from world-renowned and legendary teppanyaki master chef Takano Setsuo.

Wada arrived on Saipan last May 29 and has been busy training his support staff for more than a month now to prepare them for Monday’s opening. He has changed the restaurant’s entire menu, while also getting involved with its arrangement and interior design.

“Authentic teppanyaki cooking is you don’t burn the oil or butter on the iron grill. You must also avoid putting butter on top of the meat,” said Wada, who is slowly learning English.

Mariana Resort & Spa general manager Gloria Cavanagh said they want everything to be different from other teppanyaki restaurants on the island and that’s why they made sure Zen would look and feel like an authentic teppanyaki restaurant in Japan.

Kan Pacific Saipan Ltd., Mariana Resort’s parent company, owns Zen. They decided to bring authentic teppanyaki dining on Saipan with the help of chef Wada, who started as a dishwasher at Hotel Yokohama Kaiyotei before being trained by Setsuo.

“This is a major investment since everything is new. We wanted everything to be perfect, not just the food but the entire environment too. You only have one chance to impress people that’s why we’re keen on every detail,” said Cavanagh.

“We want to bring authentic Japanese teppanyaki experience here on Saipan. All the managers suggested a lot of names before we agreed on Zen. Zen means a lot of things to people, it can be relaxation or enlightenment through meditation.”

She added that Wada changed their menu so diners can enjoy good food cooked in front of them and also made some requests with the design.

“Chef Wada, when he arrived, changed the entire menu and requested some changes on the arrangement of the restaurant. It cost us additional money but we want our guests to have an authentic Japanese teppanyaki dining experience.”

Construction of the restaurant, located at the corner of Coconut St. and Coffee Tree Mall in the heart of Garapan’s tourist district, began in October a few months after Typhoon Soudelor. ”We could have started earlier but we can’t do anything after the typhoon,” said Cavanagh.

Mariana Resort executive chef William Retardo said Zen, for now, will be open for dinner from 6pm to 11pm with plans of adding lunch hours after two months of operation. Zen will be offering set menus or a la carte every night.

“Also, chef Wada made some requests that we change something in the interior, like the tiles. He then trained all staff, old and new. The capacity of the restaurant is for 32 customers, while it can have 45 to 50 every night,” added Retardo.

Cavanagh said that another surefire crowd drawer on the new restaurant is the new and different sauces that they want to introduce to the island. “These are some of the authentic Japanese sauces and chef Wada taught the staff how to prepare them from scratch.”

Zen held a cocktail party last Saturday for their dry run.

For more information or reservations, call 322-0770.

Jon Perez | Reporter
Jon Perez began his writing career as a sports reporter in the Philippines where he has covered local and international events. He became a news writer when he joined media network ABS-CBN. He joined the weekly DAWN, University of the East’s student newspaper, while in college.

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