Shogun Chinese & Japanese Bistro
23195 Marter Rd.,
St. Clair Shores
Shogun management knows its clientele. In my two visits, I didn’t see any diners of Asian origin, but I met a friendly east-sider who claimed to visit twice a week. If you want chopsticks, you have to ask.
The Chinese menu repeats all the familiar dishes that aren’t very similar to Chinese food as cooked in China, though beloved of generations of Americans: chop suey, chow mein, fried rice, your sweet-and-sours, almond boneless chicken. I didn’t go there.
The restaurant has two separate sections based on menu, with a bar and a sushi bar in between. The Japanese side promises a teppanyaki show: 10 giant griddles with chairs on three sides. You might have to wait a bit for all seats to fill.
The nights I visited, the chef-showman was less flamboyant than some I’ve seen. (All chefs are Chinese.) There was a lot of twirling and semi-musical clanging of cutlery on steel, and skillful construction of an onion tower, which was then engulfed in flame (o-paa!), but no juggling — of knives or ingredients. Still, fun enough, and there were always kids in the audience.
More impressive to me was watching the sharpest knives in the world do their work, certain to make envious the owner of mere-mortal knives.
You surely know the teppanyaki routine: First a bowl of soup, a clear broth with scallions, a couple of mushrooms and some caramelized onions: good idea. Then a salad — iceberg, shredded carrots, a pale tomato wedge: not so much.
Next vegetables are fried (zucchini, broccoli, cauliflower, nothing exotic); a load of white rice is dumped and mixed with eggs, soy sauce and scallions to make fried rice ($2.35 extra); the diners’ various meat choices are cooked in the correct order to make them come out at pretty much the same time. Each diner gets little dishes of ginger sauce and wasabi-infused "mustard" sauce, good for the nasal passages. Somewhere in there three shrimp per person are fried up. Kikkoman, the best soy sauce, is served; there’s a low-sodium variation.
We liked our calamari and scallops, cooked to the right degrees, the calamari tender enough and slightly sea-y. Other choices are steak, chicken, shrimp and lobster, which can be combined in various ways.
Delicacy is the hallmark of Japanese food, but there’s nothing delicate about this version. It’s designed to appeal to the hearty American appetite, and so it does. Wikipedia tells us that though the teppanyaki style originated in Japan, the founding restaurant chain "soon found the cuisine was less popular with the Japanese than it was with foreigners," as it was "somewhat more familiar than more traditional Japanese dishes."
As to the Chinese-American menu I didn’t sample, here’s what Fred Ferretti of Food Arts magazine, who knows far more than I do, wrote about the origins of that style: "The Chinese who sailed to the U.S. in the mid-1800s to lay the continental railroad were all men. They cooked unfamiliar ingredients in a rudimentary Chinese fashion, and this coarsened cookery evolved into the Chinese-American genre. Ferretti goes so far as to call it "bastardized food, prepared ... to please an American palate that dotes upon overcooked vegetables and sauces thickened with cornstarch and sugar."
We Americans have worked the same transformations on Japanese food as on Chinese, unconsciously demanding changes that make it more like our own. There’s no cornstarch in Shogun’s teppanyaki meal, but no subtlety or elegance either. I have to go to a Vietnamese restaurant to get the lightness I once associated with Thai.
About the sushi part of Shogun’s menu, the less said the better. Who knew sushi could be tough? My companion, an ex-truck-driver, explained that fish is delivered on Tuesdays and Fridays. This was Thursday. I don’t know if that’s the whole explanation, but we agreed it was the worst sushi we’d had.
I looked up what Urban Spooners had to say about Shogun, and I’ll let one of them sum it up for me: "I went here to celebrate a family birthday, so was sort of a captive ... EVERYONE else in our party LOVED their dinners!"
This is Shogun’s newest location. It’s open Monday through Thursday 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., Friday and Saturday 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. and Sunday noon to 10 p.m. The other two places (Japanese menu only) are at 18411 Hall Rd., Macomb Township, 586-228-9186, and 37750 Van Dyke, Sterling Heights, 586-268-4882.