Editor's note: Aspiring photojournalist and Gut Check contributor Kholood Eid is chronicling her Ramadan fast in diary form. Click for all Ramadan Diary entries to date.
Choosing to go to a teppanyaki restaurant has the potential to be disastrous if you're fasting and haven't eaten all day. I took a chance and lucked out.
My friend (who was also fasting) and I went to Kobe Steak House of Japan in Westport, which is one of my favorite restaurants. Although I was the one to suggest Kobe, I was apprehensive about it. Sitting in front of a talkative chef who performs fire tricks with your food while you wait there doesn't sound like a good idea for someone who's fasting. But it works, and here's why.
Like many Japanese grills, Kobe begins each meal by serving miso soup, followed by salad. And this is before the chef makes his way to his station. So, if you find yourself in a situation where you're greeted by an energetic, playful chef who'll throw peas down your shirt when you're not looking, you can handle it a lot better.
The miso soup is an excellent starter for someone who hasn't eaten all day. When I was younger, my mother would make us drink soup before eating anything, because it's easy on an empty stomach. Miso soup is traditionally very light, with bits of green onion, mushrooms and subtle flavoring. Many Muslims break their fast with dates because of they're so nutritious (and also because dates were the prophet Muhammad's top choice of an appetizer. Let's just say I'm not a fan of dates.
After the miso soup comes the salad. It's so small I sometimes get two but decided to pace myself this time -- it's easy to fill up quickly when fasting. The salad is basic but satisfying: romaine, one or two grape tomatoes, crisp noodles and a sweet ginger dressing (this dressing is so good I request extra for my entrée too).
I ordered sesame chicken with steamed rice. The rice is served while the vegetables are cut up and grilled, then the vegetables are added to the rice while the protein is cooked. I suppose this can be hard on a faster, but I guess I'm the patient sort. It doesn't hurt that Kobe's chefs throw in a few shrimp as a complimentary appetizer.
It gets better, though: The chef will also cut up pieces of shrimp and toss them to you to be caught in your mouth.
My sesame chicken was lightly seasoned and tasted great with the vegetables and noodles that topped it off. Meals are accompanied with tiny plates a variety of different sauces. The more condiments, the better.
By the end, my dish looked like a beautiful medley of deliciousness.
Hibachi is a good time if you're social and can take a dash of crude humor dished with your meal (like the chef spanking the meat). Also good if you like fire tricks while you wait for your food.
For dessert: Fresh movie-theater popcorn (with butter) and Nestle Buncha Crunch. Perfect snack for taking care of the sweet-and-salty craving.
Kobe Steak House of Japan 111 Westport Plaza, Maryland Heights; 314-469-3900