Delicious teppenyaki meets festive atmosphere in the South Side

The sushi bar is the perfect place to enjoy an intimate dinner with your significant other or to grab a couple of drinks with your friends and floormates.  (credit: Travis Wolfe) The sushi bar is the perfect place to enjoy an intimate dinner with your significant other or to grab a couple of drinks with your friends and floormates. (credit: Travis Wolfe)

If you’re searching for a trendy restaurant, a great atmosphere, and a mouth-watering menu, Nakama, a Japanese steak house located on East Carson Street, is the answer to your culinary prayers. Nakama, meaning “group of friends” in Japanese, provides visitors with good times, great people, and the option to either sip your cocktail around the spacious bar or move on to a sushi station or a hibachi table to enjoy a delectable meal. This restaurant is perfect for a date or an evening with friends and family — it fits everyone’s bill. As a traditional Japanese-style dining restaurant, Nakama proves to be an enjoyable and invigorating experience. The crowd at Nakama is young and fresh and so is the atmosphere; and, as a result, the restaurant is usually packed.

One will be sure to enjoy the food, artistic ambiance, and crowd at Nakama. The bar is constantly bustling with people, most of them members of the young and trendy Pittsburgh culture. When dining with a date, I would definitely recommend sitting around the bar area. It is the perfect intimate place to get to know someone over tasty food and great conversation. If dining with a big group and ordering wine, try the clean slate Riesling white wine. Being a Japanese restaurant, sake is also a good option. Nothing goes better with a heavenly Japanese meal than a shot of sake with your friends. Among the sushi, the spicy California roll, shrimp tempura roll, seared ahi tuna, yakitori, and the spicy tuna roll are definitely notable choices. Even the vegetarian sushi is mouth-watering with its fresh avocado and crunchy asparagus. Excellent starter choices include the squid salad, seared tuna, cold noodles, and steak skewers. The steak skewers are especially good when dining with a large party; they are tender beef sticks marinated in spices and are perfect for finger picking.

For the main course, if sitting in the hibachi section, it is expected that one orders hibachi, and diners will not regret it. Sitting in a dimly lit room with total strangers may sound awkward, but nothing brings folks together better than the collective misuse of chopsticks. Whether it is the veggie delight, the sesame chicken, or the steak, watching one’s food being prepared, interacting with the chef, and enjoying the company of other diners makes for a unique experience.

The chefs first come out and introduce themselves. They follow this introduction by demonstrating tricks with ingredients and fire from the hibachi grill. These specially trained chefs prepare all of the food right in front of their diners. They slice, dice, and julienne with lightning speed. All entrees, from sesame chicken to hibachi scallops, are served with a flambe, soup, and assorted sides. The hibachi portions are huge; however, the drawback of the hibachi section is that diners have to pay $10 to share their food with their friends. The beginning price of a hibachi dish is around $16, but it can go up to about $55. However, the food and service at Nakama are definitely worth the price.
If celebrating a friend’s birthday, this is definitely a great place for the occasion. At the end of a birthday dinner, the Nakama staff comes out with a gong, sparklers, cake, and ice cream, making your celebration truly special. The service at Nakama is extremely good and the staff is very attentive. The one drawback of this restaurant is the high price. Each person ends up paying $40 each if they order a couple of drinks, an appetizer, and a Hibachi dinner dish.

Despite the high price, this restaurant is definitely worth going to. After a meal, there are many bars and other great places located on East Carson Street to visit. Definitely make a reservation for the hibachi section beforehand because you may not be able to get a table by just walking in, especially on a weekend. Also, if you choose to dine late, you can definitely get a table after 9:30 p.m. when the place slows down a notch, making it possible to move around. If you do get a reservation before 9:30 p.m., try to be on time, if not early.

Nakama is one of the best teppanyaki places in Pittsburgh. It is simply not possible to go hungry and unsatisfied with a meal from Nakama. By the end of the meal, you and your friends will be clinking Buddha mugs and ordering another round of sake, having thoroughly enjoyed the meal.

Nakama is located at 1611 East Carson Street. You can make a reservation by calling (412) 381-6000.