Hope everyone had a good Easter weekend, mine was a little busier than I realized so I’m just getting to this post now. One of my Groupons was expiring this weekend so I met up with my family on Saturday to make sure it didn’t go to waste. It was for Susumu, a teppanyaki style Japanese steakhouse, hidden way back in the old Mervyns shopping center on Douglas. Susumu is a locally run restaurant very similar to Benihana, which I’m sure everyone is familiar with. If not, the basic gist is that you sit around a large griddle where the chef prepares your food while performing tricks like juggling utensils or flipping shrimp into his hat. I loved going to Benihana as a kid for birthdays (and hey, still do sometimes 😉 ). The show was always fun, but to be honest I really liked the food the most because of how freshly cooked it was.
Susumu serves sushi in addition to the featured teppanyaki cuisine and just past the entrance is kind of a mini sushi restaurant within the main restaurant. The Sushimaster menu is much like a sushi joint’s but much smaller, though they seem to hit all the major items. We of course came for the full dinner experience so we were sat at of one of the tables with another group of 4. At 5:30pm the restaurant was about half full. They have about 8 standard size tables that seat 8 each and a couple double-long tables which feature two griddles where I presume two chef’s work at simultaneously. By the time we left at 7 they were just about packed, even both of the big tables were seated.
Our waitress greeted the table and took drink and appetizer orders. I ordered a Kirin Ichiban, which was light and refreshing, and my parents ordered an asparagus roll that my mom noticed on the specials board by the front door. The asparagus roll had asparagus tempura, cream cheese, avocado and sauce. I had just one piece in order to save room for the main course and it was alright. I didn’t use any soy sauce on it and I think it could have used just a tiny bit to make it better.
Before the roll came out we also had soup and salad, which is included with the entrees. I recall not liking the dressing that you get at Benihana, and I think this was similar but I actually enjoyed it. It was the first time in a while I even bothered to try the salad, so my tastes have definitely changed since I was a kid. The onion soup is one of the highlights that I always seem to forget about until they bring it out. It’s awesome and I’m always left wanting more. It’s super light and fairly subtle in flavor.
After all the small starters, our chef arrived with the cart of ingredients and utensils. He started out with a quick and skilled display with his spatula and knife. and reviewed all the orders around the table to make sure they were right. Soon he was flipping an egg up in the air and catching it expertly with his spatula. He was off to a pretty strong start. Soon he had moved onto the onion volcano trick. At Benihana they just let it steam but here the chef sets it ablaze! Eventually he breaks the volcano apart and adds it to the giant pile of fried rice he’s been preparing on the side. Everyone gets a scoop of this as soon as it’s finished. I spin my plate around at this point to allow easier access to the rice while veggies and other items are added as they are prepared. The rice is easily one of my favorite things about eating at a restaurant like this. It’s some of the best fried rice I have enjoyed anywhere, simply due to how fresh it is. Whatever sauces and seasoning is added definitely varies slightly from Benihana, because I think I like theirs a bit more. Susumu’s was still better than just about anywhere else I can think of though.
After the rice was done he kind of toned down the show a bit and just focused on cooking everything. I had ordered the beef & prawns combo. You get about 4 prawns with this, which is pretty small compared to Benihana’s similar combo, the Splash & Meadow. At Benihana, I believe most of the dinner entrees include a shrimp appetizer of about the same amount. It’s also nice there because when I order that I get a little bit of shrimp up front and then the rest later. Something I noticed the very first time I ate here was that when it came time to cook the beef, the chef did not ask how I’d like it cooked. That was because it wasn’t a typical steak, rather thinly sliced strips of beef. Just as before, they are cooked until they are brown, were a bit tough, and without a lot of flavor. I needed to use the dipping sauce provided, which was pretty tasty, but I would rather it was tasty on it’s own. For about the same price at Benihana you get steak cooked to your liking and it’s thicker and juicier, making the sauce an optional enhancement, not something you should rely on.
He was starting to wind down as he finished the last thing on the grill, a tofu dinner for my brother, which actually had little prep work since it was wrapped in foil and steaming. Instead of serving it to my brother with the rest of his food, he reached back and took an extra plate from the table behind him, set the foil with Tofu in it on that on and set it next to my brother’s current plate. That seemed a little lazy to me. This was when I realized he hadn’t done much trick-wise since about the flaming onion volcano. I had been sitting with my camera set for video to catch his closing display but instead he simply cleaned the griddle, said thank you and left. I’ve definitely seen a lot of varying amounts energy and enthusiasm from chefs over the years, but this one was probably the most disappointing in recent memory, particularly since he had demonstrated that he was quite capable early on.
I should point out that the prices seem to have increased since the first time I was here last June (the online menu has not been updated). Before, I could explain away the difference in amount of shrimp and quality of beef by the lower price, but now it’s hard to justify. On both visits I’ve used a Groupon, and I still have one left that is good for a while. I think I’ll try the Filet Mignon steak and prawns combo to see if it’s much better. If I was paying full price however, I might be tempted to make the drive down Sunrise to Benihana instead.
UPDATE: It’s been about 4 months since this visit and I just recently went back to use my last Groupon. I tried the Filet Mignon + shrimp combo and it was absolutely fantastic. The Filet Mignon is absolutely what I thought it would be, a thicker more proper cut of meat instead of the thin strips of beef. It was cooked medium-rare and was amazingly tender and very flavorful (the clump of butter that was dropped on it towards the end certainly didn’t hurt). Our chef was pretty entertaining and had a great sense of humor. I had a taste of Teriyaki chicken (something that’s usually take or leave for me) and it was also amazing. If I were to rate that visit it would be about a 4 of five, the only reason they didn’t earn the 5 is that the waitress would disappear for long periods of time between checkups, even when she left to run everyone’s credit cards. They were very busy at the time but the waits seemed extraordinarily long even taking that into account.