A whole new world of flavors at Yakiniku-Tenka

Think Japanese cuisine is all about sushi? Think again; this veteran Herzliya Pituah restaurant serves up a treat.

Yakiniku-Tenka (photo credit: Courtesy)
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Celebrating its 10th anniversary, Yakiniku-Tenka, the only (as far as I know) Japanese grill restaurant in Israel, will transport you to Japan and a whole new world of flavors, and you don’t even have to buy a plane ticket. Situated in the unlikely industrial area of Herzliya Pituah, this lovely restaurant is a haven for anyone who has a yen for Japan.
For me and my dining companion, the transition started as soon as we walked in, took our shoes off and were ushered into a private room, divided from the other rooms by ricepaper partitions. The decor was authentic Japanese.
Inside the room, we sat on low sofas and started to get acquainted with Yakiniku cuisine, a popular style of cooking that was brought there from Korea and adopted into Japanese cuisine.
Chef and owner Ofer Hermoni, an Israeli who lived and studied in Japan for more than six years, is devoted to the Japanese culture. He studied in Japan, but when he wanted to learn the secrets of the cuisine, he discovered that the Japanese do not like to share their culinary secrets with foreigners.
“They have a saying that translates more or less as ‘Don’t mix strangers with sumo, geishas and food.’ Somehow, I managed to be accepted as an apprentice in a few of the best restaurants specializing in the major cuisines of Japan,” says the chef.
Upon his return to Israel, Hermoni decided to open a Japanese restaurant that would serve “the kind of Japanese food that is served in Japan.”
Judging by the number of Japanese and Korean diners who were eating there on the night we visited Yakiniku- Tenka, he has succeeded.
Hermoni chose the Yakiniku cuisine, which is based on the traditional Korean cooking method whereby the food is grilled at the table. And what an eating experience that is! Forget everything you think you know about Japanese cooking. At Yakiniku-Tenka, the tastes, the textures and the variety are out of this world.
Serving a special 10th anniversary tasting menu, the dishes kept coming, each one different and more exciting than the other, and each cooked to perfection, revealing new and exotic flavors. But you won’t find any sushi there. The menu is built on many small dishes – meat dishes, as well as a good selection of tasty vegetarian dishes.
The tasting dinner is created after discussing the many options with the diner. Traditionally, it includes starters, the restaurant’s flagship dish of kobe steak, other meats grilled at the table over hot stones, with side dishes of rice, meat and vegetables.
We had a green salad with a delicious secret dressing; a chijimi – the Japanese version of vegetarian blintzes; and a dish of tofu and shiitake mushrooms. After we finished the starters, our waiter ignited the grill that was placed in the middle of the table. Yakiniku means “grilled meat.” The grill is clean and does not emit smoke. Each diner in turn places a piece of marinated meat on the grill and cooks it very briefly. The rice bowls made of stone are also heated.
Mixed in the rice are vegetables and an egg, which cook as you mix them together. There is also a mixed dish of seafood and vegetables and then goose, chicken and beef. And to spice things up, a selection of sake wines are served in a progression, slowly getting things heated up around the table.
The desserts at Yakiniku-Tenka are light, consisting mainly of sorbets and ice creams, as well as frozen fruit. A fitting end to a delightful meal.
On regular days, this meal would cost about NIS 400 per couple; but during November and December, the special anniversary price is NIS 140 per person, making in NIS 280 per couple. Plus there is a chance to win a coupon for a day at a spa (worth NIS 1,350), two of which are raffled off among the diners once a month.
Yakiniku-Tenka has six private rooms for two or four diners, and one room for eight diners. The restaurant is open only for dinner, except on Saturdays.
The writer was a guest of the restaurant.
Yakiniku-Tenka: Japanese Grill Restaurant (Not kosher) 9 Maskit Street, Herzliya Tel: (09) 958-0322 It is recommended to call for reservations.