Written by: J. Vigotsky
In Japanese culture, hibachis are containers that are made of heatproof material and hold burning charcoal. Surprisingly, they traditionally aren’t used for cooking. But in the United States, hibachi is associated with drop-in Teppanyaki griddles that are commonly integrated into dining tables. Many diners gather around the table to watch a master chef not only cook on these griddles, but also perform. Popular throughout the country, Hibachi-style restaurants offer unique, interactive dining experiences. The following are just a few reasons why Hibachi restaurants are so popular:
A hibachi restaurant table fosters community like few dining experiences can. You’ll sit down with a large group that consists of either friends, family, or total strangers. Diners share meals, toast drinks, and excitedly cheer on the master chef who performs right in front of them. Great for meeting new people or catching up with old friends, this type of atmosphere ideal for a social night out at a restaurant.
The cooking of each hibachi meal starts the same way: a chef uses a squeeze bottle to cover the griddle with oil then ignites it all in one glorious inferno. Diners “Ooh” and “Ahh” at the flame that signals the beginning of their meal experience. Once the fire dies down, a chef does what he does best: cook with the dramatic flair of a Broadway performer.
The master chefs who operate the Teppanyaki griddles at hibachi restaurants are more than just skilled chefs. Cooking with style, these chefs boast enough charisma to keep diners captivated by their theatrical performance. Whether they’re igniting fires, creating onion volcanoes, juggling turners, cracking jokes, or catching food atop their chef hats, hibachi chefs are showmen who know that providing delicious food is only half their job. If you like attempting to catch food or sake in your mouth—or watching other people attempt to catch food or sake in their mouths—the opportunity will surely arise at a hibachi restaurant.
Where there’s hibachi, there’s almost always sake. Also known as Japanese rice wine, sake is the national beverage of Japan and more similar to beer than wine in how it’s prepared. The beverage usually comes in authentic sake cups and bottles that are white, ceramic, and have a distinctly Eastern style. Sake can be served chilled, heated, or at room temperature. The proper serving temperature usually depends on the exact type of sake being consumed.
Culture and Décor
Hibachi restaurants are usually steeped in traditional Japanese culture. Minimalistic architecture is accompanied by traditional ornaments and color schemes. Delicate lighting enables patrons to focus entirely on their meal, their fellow diners, and the experience. Hot towels that have been warmed via towel steamers can be found at many of these establishments. Some meals also come with Chinese soup spoons and sauce dishes that include several distinct sauces. Whether you prefer soy sauce, duck sauce, or hot and spicy sauce, there will be something that satisfies your particular taste.
Watching a professional chef work his magic right in front of you helps demystify the cooking process a little bit. While you might not quite be able to put on the same type of show as these highly skilled chefs, you can surely pick up a tip or two that’ll help you cook in your own kitchen. Even if you’re too busy chatting with friends or drinking sake to pick up on any game-changing skills, you’ll at least be able to see with your own two eyes that there’s nothing overly complicated about cooking hibachi-type dishes.
Hibachi meals usually start with either white or fried rice. Rather than watch the rice warm in a commercial rice cooker, you’ll get to see the chef cook rice right on the Teppanyaki griddle. Next up are noodles and some type of protein-dense dish: chicken, pork, beef, and fish are all common choices. Finally, a serving of vegetables adds some nutritional punch to the meal.
There are plenty of reasons to eat at any hibachi restaurant. If you’re looking for a delicious meal and a fun time out with friends, you can’t go wrong by opting for hibachi.