If you’ve never gone out to eat and had the chef cooking your food throw a vegetable directly into your mouth, then it’s high time.
I’m gonna cover everything you need to know to have a great time and a full belly when visiting a Japanese hibachi restaurant. Rochester has two: Jenpachi Japanese Steak House and Osaka Sushi Seafood Steakhouse.
Hibachi dining is when you sit at a large table that surrounds a hot flat-top grill. Guests are seated around three sides of the table, and the chef stands on the grill side, cooking your meal in front of you (and sometimes throwing random food into your waiting mouth).
Unless you brought exactly eight people, you’ll be seated with other diners. If you’re looking for a private meal to talk, just the two of you, then save hibachi for next week. This is part of the adventure — you never know who you’ll run into, what interesting people you’ll meet or how these people will react when the entire grill erupts into flames.
So here’s the basic process: You’re seated at the hibachi table (with interesting strangers who are also part of your entertainment), and typically, a waiter will take your drink and food orders. The menu lists the different types of proteins you can choose, which come with a variety of side items such as vegetables, noodles, soup, salad and rice. Teriyaki chicken, shrimp and filet mignon are popular choices.
When ready, the chef arrives at your table with an impressive set of sharp knives, spatulas and lots of food — all the ingredients for the dishes you ordered. Typically, the rice (fried) and vegetables are cooked first, followed by the seafood and meats.
Get extra lobster sauce (sometimes called seafood sauce).
Just trust me.
A huge part of the experience is the show — the chef is there to cook your food and to entertain you. You might see things such as an onion volcano, an egg flipped into the chef’s hat, the entire grill on fire, lots of knife chopping and spinning and twirling, and yes, even some flying food (into a willing mouth). It’s a big part of the experience, so make sure you enjoy the show!
When these places get busy, the wait can be very long, because there are only so many chefs to go around. Especially if you’re in a large group or it’s a special occasion, make sure to call ahead.
Be the favorite customer
There are always a couple free pieces of veggie or meat that inevitably end up needing divvying, and you can position yourself to get them. First, sit in the middle of the table for easy access. Second and most important: make friends with your chef. Definitely chat him up, ask him how long he trained, ask about the best trick he’s seen someone do at a hibachi table, laugh at his jokes and clap for his efforts. Not only will you have more fun, but you’ll become the chef’s favorite. And guess who gets extra morsels? That’s right. It’s always the favorite.
Got any other tips for dining out for hibachi? Let me know.
Quick bites for this week
A few events around town you should know about:
Thursday, March 24, starting at 5 p.m., Pappy’s Place is hosting their annual Surly Brewery Tap Takeover where they’re featuring the last barrel-aged Surly Darkness in town. Other brews in the lineup include regular Darkness, Hell,Pils, Cynicale, Brett Mikkels IPA, Overrated, Todd the Axe Man, Furious, and Cacao Bender. Be sure to be there at 6 p.m. to get in on tapping an infused Axe Man keg.
Forget basketball. For the entire month of March, Wildwood Sports Bar and Grill is putting on March Taco Madness. Each day features a pair of specialty tacos, which you can get with your choice of side for just $7.99. I think Thursday’s California shrimp tacos look amazing with seared shrimp, avocado, fresh pico de gallo, queso fresco and chipotle-orange sauce. Plenty more delicious combos are available each day of the week, though, so you’ll just have to keep going back.