Bozu brings teppanyaki cooking out of the theatrical arenas of Waikiki's Benihana of Tokyo and Kobe Steak House and plants it smack dab in the heart of ever-evolving Kaimuki.
It's great for the lazy diner -- I know a few -- who enjoy the smoky freshness of cook-it-yourself operations but prefer to avoid work as part of the dining experience. They're usually the chatty, distracted sort, prone to losing themselves while going on and on about their daily trials. Inevitably, they forget to watch the grill and in so doing, manage to turn their steaks into charcoal.
There's none of that at Bozu, where chef Masaaki Kato, an alum of both Benihana and Kobe, is now a one-man act in service to an entire room instead of just one table.
His teppan is tucked in one corner of the restaurant, so you can watch him work or simply carry on a conversation in the other half of the room. You need to watch at least once to appreciate the discipline Kato brings to his work.
All of this is done in a cozy blond room seating 35. The food itself is nothing fancy, but the flash of the stainless steel teppan seems to draw local families out for a special occasion, as well as those who simply need to take a break from their daily cooking routine.
Perhaps because the audience is primarily local, a lot of the niceties associated with Japanese restaurants cannot be taken for granted. No tea is offered, and the typically gratis salad is available for the a la carte price of $3.49.
Otherwise, the menu offers all the basic crowd pleasers: chicken, scallops, steak and shrimp in various combinations, served with soup, rice and tsukemono.
FL MORRIS / FMORRIS@STARBULLETIN.COM
Masaaki Kato, a veteran of both the Benihana and Kobe teppanyaki restaurants, is now the grillmaster at Bozu in Kaimuki.
THE GOOD PART is there's no waiting for each tiny morsel of shrimp to be flung onto your plate as at Benihana. Without the individual sideshow, your order of diced New York steak and whole shrimp ($17.99) or scallops and shrimp ($15.99) arrives in full, with a stir-fried mix of onions, bean sprouts and zucchini, and if you like, garlic. All this is very simply prepared with pats of butter and a minimalist sprinkling of salt, pepper and soy sauce. Scallops are bland so any of the other selections are preferable.
It's possible to share all on the plate as bite-size pupu, while making way for teishoku offerings of tonkatsu ($9.99), tempura ($9.99) and miso butterfish ($10.99), which has become the rage among Hollywood's elite as melt-in-your-mouth black cod with miso.
For those short on cash this time of year, a side order of steak-and-vegetables alone runs a mere $9.99, and a taste of assorted tempura ($5.49) may be just enough to satisfy your craving for the deep-fried shrimp. This features two pieces of shrimp along with beans, kabocha, sweet potato and zucchini. The vegetable tempura alone is also available for $3.99.
As popular as the teppan meals are, Bozu's tempura has also attracted fans due to Kato's use of antioxidant rice-bran oil in the frying process. The result is a crunchy, non-greasy shell that is believed to reduce bad cholesterol, not to mention the guilt associated with stuffing your body with deep-fried fare.
ALONG WITH A few other side dishes, that's the extent of the dinner menu. The teppan menu is only available at night. By day, teishoku meals run $7.49 for teri chicken, tempura or tonkatsu, to $10.99 for the butterfish.
For lunch, there's also a lengthy roster of donburi ($6.99 to $8.49) and udon ($5.99 to $9.99) selections.
For dessert, try some of the chef's light homemade azuki bean ice cream ($2.49).