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Behind the Scenes: Mali Hu of Katana Teppanyaki & Sushi

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MaliThe latest steakhouse and sushi bar, Katana Teppanyaki & Sushi, recently opened in Buckhead and brings a twist on modern open-grill restaurants. Each table in the Teppanyaki room seats up to ten people, and a personal chef cooks made-to-order meals before your eyes. Inspired by Japanese style steakhouses, this is a far cry from Benihana or even Ichiban, its sister restaurant.

Mali Hu (chief operating officer for Katana, One Sushi +, and Ichiban) and her husband George are the minds behind the forward-thinking restaurant. And much how they changed the landscape of sushi with One Sushi + (balsamic strawberry sushi anyone?), we chatted with Mali to see what she is doing with Katana. 

What exactly is the Teppanyaki style?

Teppanyaki cooking is just a meal over an open grill. It doesn’t have to focus on just Japanese cuisine. We can cook a lot of things, like French foie gras or lamb. This style focuses on the chef’s cooking and the quality of the food. By using less sauces diners will primarily taste the flavor of the meat itself. We are sourcing fresh Maine lobster, New Zealand lamb, and organic free-range chicken.

How are you changing from the traditional Japanese steakhouse form of soup, salad, grilled vegetables, rice and protein?

The Katana way is that when you sit down, the chef is outside at the grill the whole time. He will cook any appetizers in front of you. Then he will cook your entrée first, using separate small pans for entrees that require sauces, like Teriyaki chicken. Once he does each guest’s main dish, then he carefully plates the food. He cooks the vegetables and grains as guests are enjoying the main part of their meal. When you are almost finished, then the chefs can begin to clean, instead of during your meal.

How does this experience appear more artful to the guests?

In a traditional open-grill setting, the chef dumps food on your plate, regardless of if you are done with the course before. To me I don’t like that, It’s a mess because there is rice everywhere and the grill gets dirty. To me, when the chef takes the time to prepare each dish, that’s entertainment. At Katana, the first part of the dinner will be focused on the chef’s preparation.DSC_7369

Both you and your husband are from Korea, and have traveled in Taiwan and across Asia. How has your culture influenced the menu?

After we eat we think about what we could do to put our touch on it. I like Korean food and it’s very healthy. We are slowly adding in those influences into each restaurant. An example is the Korean dish bibimbap, which is traditionally a root vegetable, Korean hot sauce, ground beef and an egg on top. We are sourcing fresh seafood so in our “bop” dish we use yellowtail instead of beef.

You created several of the cocktails on the menu. Talk about the beverage program.

I’ve come up with a lot of cocktails. At all of our restaurants, we make our own syrups and we use fresh juices, but use Asian influences. The Confucius features whiskey, lemon juice, simple syrup and chamomile foam, and the O. M. Gin features infused truffle vermouth, white truffle oil and Tangueray 10. As for sakes, we will have our own sake brand and in-house sake sommelier, Anes. He is the second in Georgia. And of course, Japanese craft beers on tap.

**Katana is soft opened now, and will have its grand opening November 17.


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