Federal Way's Tokyo Japanese Steak House is opening a downtown Bellevue location this weekend, bringing its teppanyaki showmanship to an area that the restaurant's owner believes could benefit from more shrimp-tossing, onion-dicing and zucchini-flipping.
Asked why he was adding a 9000-square foot restaurant to his portfolio, Bryan Joo said, "That's kind of a silly question."
Perhaps because so many authentic Japanese restaurants have thrived in the greater Seattle area, the Japanese steakhouse format originated by Benihana has failed to gain a foothold in the region. Joo estimates there are 10 such steakhouses in the Puget Sound, a number that many mid-sized Southern towns could match.
"This kind of business is not just a regular business," Joo says. "You can open easy, but taking care of customers is hard."
Joo opened his Federal Way restaurant 13 years ago. A native Korean, he got his start in the Japanese steakhouse biz as a cook at a restaurant in Dallas.
The vast majority of Joo's patrons are white, although he estimates 10 percent of his customers are "Asian or from other countries." Without exception, they're familiar with the slice-and-dice show.
"They all know about it," he says.
The new venue in the 909 Elements building will seat 378 diners. Joo says he's been trying to lease the space for three or four years.
So what should diners expect of the new restaurant? "A lot," Joo promises.