The menu at the new Teppan Express is not particularly lengthy, but it has an unusual mix of Asian fusion and traditional American cuisine.
On the Asian side of things one will find appetizers, such as egg rolls, wonton mozzarella sticks and garlic chicken; two Japanese-style entrees and a Thai curry entrée.
On the American side are such items as ham and Swiss, grilled chicken, Philly and B.L.T. sandwiches and wraps; cheeseburgers and chili cheese fries.
A breakfast menu is mostly traditional American — omelets, pancakes, waffle and chicken, French toast, crepes and biscuits and gravy — except for the steamed shrimp dumplings and pork-shrimp shumai served in a bamboo steamer.
Even the desserts are an odd mix. They include a pineapple gelatin topped with whipped cream and wafer crust, strawberry-chocolate cheesecake and crème brulee.
And if you think Express indicates fast food, forget it. Owner Dante Lin cooks to order all of the dishes, most on a teppan-style flat-top grill.
“I just try to bring what people like most from different countries and put them together,” Lin said. “I use the best oils and condiments, and the meats are all high quality. My dishes aren’t greasy or too spicy, so they are good for all age groups.”
Except for dessert, we stuck to the Asian side of the menu on a recent visit. We started with three beef egg rolls ($4.99) and five crispy wonton mozzarella sticks ($4.99).
The egg rolls were crunchy, and I didn’t find the flavor of the beef and veggie egg rolls much different than the more common pork and veggie rolls. Lin said he makes the mozzarella sticks, and though simple — he rolls the mozzarella inside a wonton wrapper and fries them together — they were tasty. Both items were served with a sweet chili sauce that was more garlicky than sweet.
For our entrees, we ordered yakisoba with N.Y. strip ($15.99) and teppanyaki with chicken thigh meat ($12.99). Lin said both are his versions of traditional dishes. We found each flavorful and interesting.
The yakisoba platter included stir-fried noodles with green cabbage, red onion, mushrooms, red and green peppers and choice of meat, topped with two sunny-side-up eggs, yakisoba sauce and mayonnaise.
By itself, the thick yakisoba sauce tasted something like Worcestershire sauce. The idea is to mix the sauce and the mayo into the noodle and veggie mix, and the blend was impressive. Maybe the cabbage could have been cut into smaller pieces, but that’s a minor matter.
We were told the strips of beef were prime. We asked that they be cooked as close to rare as possible, and they arrived very tender and flavorful.
Teppanyaki included a mix of stir-fried cabbage, red onion, mushrooms, sliced chestnuts and choice of meat, topped with teppanyaki sauce and two sunny-side-up eggs. The mix included a generous amount of dark chicken meat, and the sauce in this one had a bigger aroma and a slightly fruity edge. The dish included a side of sticky rice topped with shredded seaweed.
Both dishes had a sprinkling of the seaweed, which had a distinct fishy aroma and flavor. Depending on your preferences, you might ask to leave it off.
It would have been fun to taste some of the dim sum on the breakfast menu and the house-made chili, but those will have to wait for another time.
We couldn’t resist the crème brulee, and it turned out to be delicious. Lin makes the smooth custard with Irish cream liqueur and garnishes the seared sugar topping with a strawberry cut into a flower shape, sliced strawberries, blueberries, mint leaves from his garden, a tiny sprinkling of powdered sugar and chocolate and strawberry sauces drizzled on the side.
“Sometimes, the presentation is as important as the cooking,” Lin said.
The dining room is not fancy but is comfortable and tastefully decorated. It seats a cozy 34.
Lin said his mother, Lie (pronounced lee-uh), brought him to the United States from China when he was 16 years old. He said he graduated from Union High School.
“After graduation, I went to Cali with friends and ended up working in Japanese restaurants and American steakhouses in San Diego and in Texas,” Lin said. “I decided to come home and open my own place.
“You will see my mother here most days. If things get busy, she even can help cook in the kitchen.”