Shogun – Edmonton, AB
Shogun Japanese Restaurant
10125 – 121 Street NW
With one of the oldest pedigrees when it comes to serving Japanese cuisine in Edmonton (in particular being home to the first real full-fledged sushi bar in the city) and still in the same location when it opened back in 1983, Shogun is one of the real classics that has survived the test of time. Despite this longevity, I have a sense its not really well known by local bloggers as I don’t really hear much about it through other sources. If you’ve been around as long as yours truly has and are as familiar with the Alberta capital, you might recall the current major longtime stalwart in the Japanese food genre in Edmonton, Mikado, did have a much smaller location on the north side (not the present flagship spot near Grant MacEwan), also in the Eighties. But it was Shogun who really brought to Edmonton a full scale Japanese restaurant complete with the culture-crossing phenomenon better known as teppanyaki.
Inside some of the display cases lining the restaurant floor, you’ll find some of the artifacts of yesteryear; Polaroids of some of the local celebrities that frequented the place back in the day. Personally, I still have some autographs direct from the hands of the likes of Wayne Gretzky, Mark Messier and Kevin Lowe from the early- Eighties that I collected from them when they were spotted dining here numerous times during those Oiler glory days (including one from their night of dining on New Year’s Eve 1984!). The decor hadn’t really changed much from its early days – the dark wood beams, the noren, the general layout of the tables and tatami rooms. Though I did note that in the ten years since I last came here, the sushi bar is now at the front of the house, where the former bar/lounge used to be.
If you sneak a peak back in the area where the original sushi bar used to be, you can still see it, albeit its hidden behind some walls now. I kind of miss this old counter, as the new sushi dining area which is much larger, is all bright and white in color, which seemingly causes a mismatch with the rest of the nostalgic design theme. Several ownership changes over the years have probably brought out these changes, while other parts stay very much the same as day one of operations (the stone wall and waterfall motif at the front entrance and the faux-Samurai battle armour in the display cases for example).
To further my journey on memory lane, our dining selection was indeed the teppanyaki…
A note before I begin. Best to make reservations, as it seems this remains a popular way to eat at Shogun. Unfortunately, we had but the waitress seemed perplexed that we were there, apparelntly they had “lost” our reservation. Alas, we made due but with much delay as there were other teppan tables already occupied and there was just one cook to go around to eat of them
The teppanyaki dinner menu is straight forward. You can choose from among chicken, shrimp, steak (8 or 10 ounce New York Cut) entrees, or go for a bigger combo which involves other ingredients like sukiyaki beef, shrimp, lobster, scallops, etc. and the chicken/beef picks from the entree listings. Prices for the basic entrees run from between $21 to $27, with the upgraded combos priced at approx. $25 to $44. Of course, both of these types included a myriad of vegetables (zucchini, mushrooms, bean sprouts, etc.) that are cooked to go along with your main protein choice(s) and also include a soup (dashi-broth), salad, rice and ice cream for dessert.
I find the teppanyaki is more appreciated and loved by the non-Asian crowd. Nothing raw here so that no doubt quells any fears about non-cooked ingredients. A safe bet indeed for those who are newbies still to things like sashimi or sushi. Steak cooked to how you like it (mine is always medium-rare) and with a bit of banter from the teppan cook and some showy elements during the cooking process, the lighting of some igniting liquid for a flame show for example, and some so-so fast cutting movements of the meats, it is entertaining for the kids.
Also, I noted it was a popular birthday choice, as the other three tables around us all had someone at them who was celebrating the day of their birth. But what you get is essentially some high temperature cooked meats and veggies, served on a single plate for you with two dipping sauces (a sesame-based one that was supposed to be for the steak, and a ginger-based one for the shrimp). Really, nothing that many cooks probably do at home, minus the showy flair and performance. I did recall that one of the place’s best teppan cooks back in the day, a Vietnamese immigrant named Tri, had much better skills and charasmatic personality than the fellow who prepared our food on this night. Alas, another memory that was not met by the present.
Appetizers were also on the single sheet teppanyaki dinner menu card, which came in handy as we had the service delay. Sadly though, the slow pace of things hit these dishes too, with apologies from our kitchen which was allegedly swamped. I think there were some staffing miscalculations or shortages given it was year end. Our 6pm reservation ended up becoming a 7:15pm teppanyaki service start as two other big tables were services ahead of us and we rolled out of there almost around 8:30pm! Both the ika karaage and the chicken karaage were both average and nothing outstanding. If I had to choose, the chicken was more tasty than the squid, but I remember it being much better seasoned and flavorful (especially from a ginger point of view) in this place’s hey day.
Was the ten year gap since I last ate at Shogun too short or too long? Well, in terms of the teppanyaki, I could have gone longer as it was never a personal favorite, but for me, this visit was all about the memories of my younger days of eating here quite often and seeing all the things that reminded me of what this place used to be ages ago when it was always busy and packed with loyal customers, and before the influx of so many wannabe Japanese restaurants riding the new wave of popularity of this cuisine over the last fifteen years or so. So for that, Shogun will always hold a special place in my heart. I hope its around ten years from now, so I can make another pilgrimage to this pioneering establishment…