A fun dining experience is eating grilled Japanese food at the hibachi(he-ba-chee)restaurant. Hibachi is a small charcoal grill used in Japanese households to heat rooms and grilling tidbits of skewered foods.
But since the end of WWII, an enterprising Japanese restauranteur introduced the concept of dining stting at U-shaped counters around a large grill where a chef cooks individual orders in an entertaining fashion.
Now many cities have hibachi restaurants and there is one in Chico, too. It’s an enjoyable way to share a table with seven others if you don’t mind having strangers sitting across from you. Or you can take a large group and won’t have to wait long for a table.
The menu is limited to grilling beef, chicken and sea foods, along with stir fried vegetables.Each diner gets a bowl of miso soup, rice and a salad with sesame flavored dressing. One can order appetizers of edamame(soy beans)and sushi while waiting for the chef to arrive and begin cooking the entrees the waitress has written down.
When the chef arrives, and he may not be Asian but expert in Japanese cookery, he flips his spatula nd meat fork and catches them like a circus clown. I have witnessed some chefs flip a piece of vegetable up into his chef’s hat. This sets the st age for fun dining. Then me mixes dipping sauces into individual dishes for each customer.
When the cooking begins, he first cooks fried rice for any who’ve ordered it. He cracks and egg after passing it behind his back, scrambles it on the grill, adds a small amount of onion and shredded vegetables, then liberally sprinkles with salt before adding a bowl of rice to the mix. After the mixture has fried, he sprinkles soy sauce and adds some butter before scooping the finished rice into bowls to pass to customers whose appetites are whetted by his action.
Next the chef grills appetizers of shrimp and mushroom. Both are sliced with hs sharp knife, quickly sauteed and flipped over to each diner’s plate.
While diners grind away, he sets p the entrees, starting first with chicken breasts that require longest cooking. Each boneless breast is sliced into strips, grilled and seasoned with soy sauce and butter, then pushed aside to cook further while he cooks the steaks and other seafood that have been ordered.Those are also sliced thinly to be easily eaten with chopsticks(or forks for the inept who can’t manage chopsticks), and similarly sauced with soy and butter and perhaps sesame seeds, and served to the respective plates.
Meanwhile, the last of the foods, the stir fried mixed vegetables, are cooked: slices of zucchini, carrots and mushroom and a pile of bean sprouts. But before he stir-fries the mixed veggies, he stacks onion slices into a cone, spritzes them with alcohol,flames it with a lighter, and WHOOSH, a volcano!
Back to the vegetable mound, he shapes a SMILEY face or a HEART, giving a nod to the women or young couples,before he finishes stir frying them with more soy sauce and butter. Each customer gets a portion, and while they are busily finishing eating, he cleans the grill for the next group of customers.
But he is not finished. He’s saved a few morsels of meat and asks anyone who dares, to OPEN YOUR MOUTH, and with surprising accuracy flips one into each gaping hole!
The price for each entree is comparable to that at a steak restaurant, and the accompaniments that are often ala carte at those are included, making it a rather reasonable, nutritionally balanced meal, albeit high in sodium and cholesterol. But for an occasional evening out, a fun way to dine and be entertained by the skillful work of the chef.
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