Whether you’re a on holidays on the Gold Coast or a local, a night out at KooKoo Teppanyaki and Lounge Bar is loads of fun.
KooKoo Teppanyaki is located in the heart of Surfers Paradise, a short walk from the Cavill Avenue light rail station. Open to Surfers Paradise Boulevard, from the street you can see chefs working over teppan hotplates amid steam and flames, grilling the freshest prime cuts of beef, chicken and seafood with seasonal vegetables in front of their customers.
Though KooKoo Teppanyaki opened fifteen years ago, in 2019, husband and wife team Ken and Dorothy Chu, who were both working in the business, took over its lease.
Having emigrated to Australia from Hong Kong in 2013 as a Hospitality and Tourism student, Ken tells us that he loves the life of being a teppanyaki chef, meeting and conversing people from many countries in the world.
“It’s a lot more fun because it’s more interactive than the life of most chefs in the kitchen,” Ken tells us.
Though we identify teppanyaki as being Japanese in origin, teppanyaki as we know it today is a hybrid of cultures. Derived from the words ‘teppan’ (iron plate) and ‘yaki’ (grilled, boiled, or pan-fried), teppanyaki has changed through the centuries.
Small teppan grills have been used in Japanese households for hundreds of years, but the first teppanyaki restaurant, Misono, only opened in Kobe, Japan in 1945, cooking Western-influenced food on a large teppan grill in front of diners. The style of cooking gained such popularity in Japan with American ex-servicemen and tourists that the first ‘Japanese steakhouse’, Benihana, opened in New York in 1964. Once in the West, the performance aspect of teppanyaki grew, as did its popularity.
Two decades later, teppanyaki culture rode into the Gold Coast on the 1980s wave of Japanese investment.
In the early days, Yamagen (in the QT), Shogun (recently closed, whose original venue was very traditional) and Benihana (now Misono at the Marriott) were the only three teppanyaki bars on the Gold Coast.
“In those days, being a teppanyaki chef was a very prestigious job,” Chef Paolo Gumabon tells us as he cooks our dinner on the teppan, referring back to his time working with chefs brought from Japan to start those restaurants.
“You have to realise that the style of teppanyaki we have in Australia today is more American than Japanese. Japanese style teppanyaki is a lot more serious, a lot more focussed on the food.”
Since then, many more teppanyaki restaurants have sprung up across the coast. Their proliferation has meant that, while the teppanyaki experience may not be as elite as when it first arrived on the Gold Coast, it is more accessible to a range of diners. Meal sets at KooKoo start at $25 per person, banquets from $39 per person and cocktails from $10. Children’s meals are priced under $20, and there are also discounts for dining early.
That does not mean, however, that quality suffers. The menu at KooKoo Teppanyaki includes wagyu, bugs, lobster, kangaroo, barramundi, prawns and scallops, all stunningly fresh and cooked to order. The advantage teppanyaki holds over most restaurants is that you can order whatever you want, with meat cooked to your preference, vegetarian or vegan if you prefer. All meals are served with miso soup, grilled vegetables, Kookoo salad and steamed rice.
We watch as Chef Paolo shows off his knife skills, juggling knives, forks and spatula. He slices and dices, flips eggs, and makes an onion ring volcano, enthralling diners around the grill as he prepares our meals in front of us. These are all skills which take time and patience to learn, Ken tells us.
Though Ken is managing the restaurant when we visit, he is also a teppanyaki chef, having reached star status when YouTube clips of him juggling knives score 50 million views.
As well as being entertaining with his tricks, jokes and conversation, Chef Paolo cooks our food quickly to order. There’s plenty of it and, cooked over the grill, it’s delicious! No one leaves hungry!
KooKoo Teppanyaki has something for everyone. We especially enjoy watching the faces of children nearby who are enthralled by the chef’s antics. Combining fresh local ingredients cooked to order, your choice of meal and engaging entertainment at a reasonable price, we can’t resist a great teppanyaki experience.
Why not try out KooKoo Teppanyaki on your next family night out. It’s a relaxing, family-friendly venue perfect for everyone to enjoy.
KooKoo Teppanyaki & Lounge Bar, 3120 Surfers Paradise Boulevard, Surfers Paradise QLD 4215
Ph: 0450 323 907 Open: Mon – Sun 5pm – 10pm
NOTE: Good Food Gold Coast dined as guests of KooKoo Teppanyaki & Lounge Bar.