An Goes North

Mr. An's returns to the northside with flash and fish

Mr. An is back in the 'hood, specifically the near-Northwest side in a building he occupied some time back. The site—formerly the home of a variety of eateries that included a coffee house, a Mexican joint and a big chain teppan/sushi place—is humongous. There's a bar that's bigger than many full restaurants in town, more than a dozen teppan stations, a brightly lit sushi bar, a party room, a patio (with live music) and a regular dining room in the middle of it all.

Being a teppan restaurant, Mr. An's can be noisy what with the slap, slap, slap of spatulas on the grill, the shouts from the teppan chefs, the oohs and aahs from patrons and at least once an evening the staff singing a celebratory song for a customer, complete with a gong. Other senses are not left out: flashes of fire, mixed aromas and smoke from the food being cooked just feet away, bright colors (mostly reds) and Asian knickknacks all around. But this is teppan dining, after all, designed as theater as much as it is eating.

We did it both ways—teppan and sushi, adding several appetizers for good measure. There is a modest wine list but we opted for icy, cold 16-ounce Kirin beer ($5.50 each), a perfect foil for both sides of the menu.

Our apps were the cherry blossom shrimp ($8.50), the boolgogi wraps ($12), the soft-shell crab spring roll ($9.50) and the tuna tartare ($9).

The bite-sized shrimp were beautifully presented in a martini glass. Fried to perfection, the shrimp was bright orangey-red thanks to a light crumbly coating. A sweet mustard sauce was there for dipping. The boolgogi consisted of marinated, thin strips of beef that you wrapped in head lettuce with rice and a nice hoisin dressing. The tuna tartare was another pretty presentation with chopped raw tuna, pine nuts, tomatoes and avocado, tossed with a creamy sesame dressing (my dining companion thought mayo played a part, but I think it was an emulsified dressing of some sort), wrapped in thin translucent strips of cucumber. It wasn't as spicy as we thought it might be, but it was still quite good. The crab roll was in turns crunchy and creamy (the promised crab stick was flaked) and the miso/yuzu vinaigrette complemented the flavors nicely.

The teppan menu is pretty typical. You have a choice of chicken two ways, teppan or teriyaki ($16.95); two cuts of steak, New York strip ($20.95) or filet mignon ($23.95); or seafood: jumbo shrimp ($20.95), scallops ($23.95) or lobster ($49.95). Combinations of two or three of all of the above are available ranging in price from $23.50 to $47.95. There's also a veggie version, and all dinners come with soup, salad, a two-piece shrimp appetizer, sautéed fresh vegetables, stir-fried noodles and your choice of steamed white rice, brown rice or fried rice for an extra $2.

The two plates we tried, the shrimp and the New York strip, were quite nice and generous. The teppan soup had thinly sliced mushrooms and green onions floating in a clear, dark broth. The small salad had been tossed with a soy-based dressing. Neither stood out, but that's OK; the entrée is the focus here.

The beef was cut in bigger than bite-sized pieces. Seasoned just so and perfectly tender, it had been cooked to order. The shrimp was flavored with butter and lemon and had been grilled to the ideal point with a slight char.

Like the protein, the sides were nicely done. The toothsome veggies included mushrooms, zucchini, carrots, onions, broccoli and such. The noodles and rice worked.

Sushi choices included a spicy salmon roll ($5.75), the lovely named Lily Blossom ($10.50), and the Bleu Panda ($12) from the specialty side of the menu.

The miso served with the sushi and salmon roll was OK. We were pleasantly surprised by the Lily Blossom with its escolar, scallops, albacore and avocado that had been topped with mango (there's lots of mango at Mr. An's) and wasabi sauces. It was bright and refreshing instead of the expected sweet. The Bleu Panda was interesting, but odd. Softshell crab and tempura flakes were wrapped then topped with white tuna strips and wasabi and crumbles of bleu cheese. Cheese and fish aren't a good mix most of the time and it didn't work here, although it must be said that a few leftover pieces for lunch the next day without the cheese were quite tasty.

If prices seem a bit steep, try lunch, where the menu is similar (with bento boxes as well) and less expensive.

The service was uneven. On our first visit, the young woman was friendly and on top of things. When the entrées arrived at the small table before we'd finished the soup and salad, they slid another table over to abut ours and make room for all that food.

On the second visit, our server was in a big hurry and we felt rushed (especially when it came to ordering). Yet when we asked what furikaki was, the manager brought some over for us to taste. Furikaki, by the way, is a traditional seasoning for fish, made up of dried fish flakes, black and white sesame seeds, salt, pepper, dried seaweed and a dash of sugar.

We didn't see Luis Gonzales or Lute Olson (two people who figure prominently in Mr. An's ads), but on both nights An was working the room. Not bad for a 70-plus-some person.

All in all, Mr.An's works. As evidenced by both visits, it's a great place for a special occasion with a group of friends or for a family night out. Teppan places come and go (and the number of restaurants that have occupied that space over the years is staggering), but Mr. An seems to know what he's doing—and is doing it well.

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