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Old 08-20-2018, 07:35 PM
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Do Teppanyaki Chefs In Japan Perform Shtick, Like At Benihana?

You know how when you go to Benihana, or to a local Teppanyaki grill, the chef does a comical "bit" while he prepares the food? Does that happen in Tokyo and Osaka? Or just in the States?
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Old 08-20-2018, 08:04 PM
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Just the US. I grew up in Japan and never saw anything like that in Japan. There are some types of restaurants where you sit at the counter and you can see the chef prepare the food (some sushi and okonomiyaki restaurants - but not all), but there's never any performance.

Last edited by scr4; 08-20-2018 at 08:05 PM.
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Old 08-20-2018, 09:30 PM
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Ditto to scr4. Never saw it in Japan. Benihana in the US was the first place I saw such a thing.
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Old 08-20-2018, 11:17 PM
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Thirded. Never saw this in Japan despite living there for 2.5 years and visiting for decades.
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Old 08-20-2018, 11:51 PM
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Teppanyaki isn't particularly well known in Japan. According to the Wikipedia, it was only invented in 1945, as an attempt to introduce Western cooking influence into Japanese cuisine, but it ended up mostly popular with foreigners.

I lived in Tokyo for seven years and I never saw a teppanyaki restaurant. Whereas, for example, I found a couple of Okinawan restaurants, a fair number of Indian restaurants, and a whole boatload of Italian places.

As a kid, visiting Japan, I did go to a restaurant (I believe near Roppongi - an area popular with foreigners) that served teppanyaki, but I don't recall if they did the showy bits. I feel like they may have.

Let me make clear, lest someone nitpick me, that flat iron grills are fairly common in Japan, but mostly for Okonomiyaki. The cuisine of teppanyaki is what I am referencing.
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Old 08-20-2018, 11:57 PM
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It was this place, in fact: https://www.seryna.co.jp/en/monchertonton/roppongi/
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Old 08-21-2018, 12:00 AM
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My Japanese ex-wife was so offended she got up and walked out of Benihana claiming they were making a mockery of her culture.
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Old 08-21-2018, 12:06 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by scr4 View Post
Just the US. I grew up in Japan and never saw anything like that in Japan. There are some types of restaurants where you sit at the counter and you can see the chef prepare the food (some sushi and okonomiyaki restaurants - but not all), but there's never any performance.
To add, of course there are also many sushi restaurants etc. in the US where you can sit at the counter and watch the food being prepared without "shtick."
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Old 08-21-2018, 12:17 AM
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Teppanyaki isn't particularly well known in Japan. According to the Wikipedia, it was only invented in 1945, as an attempt to introduce Western cooking influence into Japanese cuisine, but it ended up mostly popular with foreigners.
...
Let me make clear, lest someone nitpick me, that flat iron grills are fairly common in Japan, but mostly for Okonomiyaki. The cuisine of teppanyaki is what I am referencing.


Wikipedia says the Misono steak restaurant in Kobe, which opened in 1945, was the original Teppanyaki restaurant which inspired Benihana and others.

And yes, electric "hot plates" (griddles) are very popular in Japan. Other than Okonomiyaki and yakisoba (pan fried noodles), many families use it for yakiniku (griddle cooked meat, aka "Korean BBQ") and pancakes.
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Old 08-21-2018, 12:30 AM
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Moved to Cafe Society.

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Old 08-21-2018, 12:38 AM
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Originally Posted by scr4 View Post
Wikipedia says the Misono steak restaurant in Kobe, which opened in 1945, was the original Teppanyaki restaurant which inspired Benihana and others.

And yes, electric "hot plates" (griddles) are very popular in Japan. Other than Okonomiyaki and yakisoba (pan fried noodles), many families use it for yakiniku (griddle cooked meat, aka "Korean BBQ") and pancakes.
Yakiniku on a teppan is morally wrong. Not to say that it's not done, but I maintain the position - seeing as we've been moved to Cafe Society.
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Old 08-21-2018, 12:51 AM
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Yakiniku on a teppan is morally wrong. Not to say that it's not done, but I maintain the position - seeing as we've been moved to Cafe Society.
Yeah, well, a lot of home cooking is "wrong" because you can't expect everyone to own a full set of the "right" equipment to make everything. Especially in Japanese cities where storage space isn't exactly plentiful.
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Old 08-21-2018, 01:22 AM
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Yeah, well, a lot of home cooking is "wrong" because you can't expect everyone to own a full set of the "right" equipment to make everything. Especially in Japanese cities where storage space isn't exactly plentiful.
Get a tiny shichirin. I've seen ones about the size of a pint glass.
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Old 08-21-2018, 10:41 AM
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Get a tiny shichirin. I've seen ones about the size of a pint glass.
I was trying to explain why many Japanese families (like my parents when I was little) make home yakiniku with electric hot plates. In addition to storage space, a shichirin has hazards and logistical issues (dealing with smoke and embers etc) that most Japanese families aren't used to dealing with.
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Old 08-21-2018, 05:13 PM
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I'd also note that I've been to many Japanese restaurants various Pacific coast states and while many have teppan broilers, most of them don't seem to bother with the performance. They roll out the food, maybe make an "onion volcano" then cook everything up quick and serve it to the patrons. Without the comedy/juggling routine, it's just watching some guy cook for you. And I'm happy enough to cook the same stuff for myself at that point.

For that matter, in Hokuriku Japan I was taken to a couple restaurants that were just teppan grills where we ordered our own ingredients and cooked them ourselves. Some people cooked okonomiyaki, some made fried rice, some made fried eggs. The establishment was in business mainly to provide the grill because it's too big for the average japanese house; they had several, each about the size of a 4-person dining table, plus 4 chairs around each. And then, of course, they provided the diced food and fixins (plus drinks, of course).

--G!
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Old 08-21-2018, 06:16 PM
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I have been to Japanese restaurant s in Australia that do the shtick. Never seen it in japan.
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Old 08-21-2018, 06:37 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by scr4 View Post
Wikipedia says the Misono steak restaurant in Kobe, which opened in 1945, was the original Teppanyaki restaurant which inspired Benihana and others.
Wiki says that Misono developed the shtick, and that it is more popular among foreigners than Japanese. I see from Misono's website that the chain has a total of 5 locations, none in Tokyo or Yokohama, the 2 largest cities in Japan.
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Old 08-21-2018, 07:55 PM
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My Japanese ex-wife was so offended she got up and walked out of Benihana claiming they were making a mockery of her culture.
While I expect that the practice was started at a Japanese-owned restaurant, I would guess that it was started during the 70s to try and cash in on the Asian = Kung Fu Master meme that people like Bruce Lee heralded. Obviously, this fails to differentiate between Japanese and Chinese people, and martial arts theatrics never had anything to do with how one cooks at a restaurant, in either culture.
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Old 08-21-2018, 08:15 PM
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I don't understand the popularity of these places. Everything has the same terrible scorched flavor. Might as well stay home and watch your teenager juggle while you lick an old burnt pan.
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Old 08-21-2018, 10:30 PM
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A few minutes of digging suggests that Rocky Aoki, the founder of Benihana, was, if not the originator of, certainly the popularizer of the concept of the entertaining teppanyaki chef.

It's interesting to note that Aoki didn't have a background in cooking. He was a rock musician and an athlete (including qualifying for Japan's 1960 Olympic team as a wrestler), before moving to New York, becoming an entrepreneur, and founding Benihana.

Last edited by kenobi 65; 08-21-2018 at 10:31 PM.
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Old 08-22-2018, 12:44 AM
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I don't understand the popularity of these places. Everything has the same terrible scorched flavor. Might as well stay home and watch your teenager juggle while you lick an old burnt pan.
They must be doing it wrong. I go to this teppanyaki place quite often and it is excellent:
https://www.imperialhotel.co.jp/e/os...taurant/kamon/
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Old 08-22-2018, 02:24 AM
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With dinner starting at $115 or so I'd expect it to be well above Benihana in quality.
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Old 08-22-2018, 02:42 AM
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A few minutes of digging suggests that Rocky Aoki, the founder of Benihana, was, if not the originator of, certainly the popularizer of the concept of the entertaining teppanyaki chef.

It's interesting to note that Aoki didn't have a background in cooking. He was a rock musician and an athlete (including qualifying for Japan's 1960 Olympic team as a wrestler), before moving to New York, becoming an entrepreneur, and founding Benihana.
Looks like a class act.
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Old 08-22-2018, 02:55 AM
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Looks like a class act.
Yeah. Benihana restaurants still have pictures of him in places of honor, I believe, but it sure sounds like he was a piece of work.
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Old 08-22-2018, 11:19 AM
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My Japanese ex-wife was so offended she got up and walked out of Benihana claiming they were making a mockery of her culture.
I can see where she would be coming from. But on the other hand, a lot of Japanese comedy relies on broad, physical humor and goofball antics.
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Old 08-23-2018, 12:37 AM
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Only slightly on topic:

There's a local teppanyaki restaurant chain that is owned by Chinese folks. They also hire Chinese people. I don't recall exactly what I saw when I got a glance at their terminals where they enter the orders, but I have the memory that the Chinese characters used there were the simplified versions and not what would be used in Japanese. Even more to the point, they have at least one huge translation error on their menus - they clearly got someone to translate them, and they translated them according to the information they were given very precisely. But the owners didn't know how to correctly spell "Samurai", instead giving them "Samuri", and getting back as a translation those exact three syllables (Sa-mu-ri) in katakana (used to spell foreign words in general) instead of any of the kanji that might be used, and keeping the error in spelling so that it would clearly be pronounced differently. The translator had to know what they meant, but didn't correct them. Either that or the translator added that mistake in there knowing that the owners wouldn't know any better and he'd get to show those who knew Japanese that the owners were clueless about it.

The food is really good though. Not all that expensive considering how much you get. I try not to watch the show; I've seen it probably a hundred times anyway, and it rarely changes much at all.
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Old 08-23-2018, 01:10 AM
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I can see where she would be coming from. But on the other hand, a lot of Japanese comedy relies on broad, physical humor and goofball antics.
Imagine if Hard Gay had been the chef...
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Old 08-23-2018, 05:42 AM
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I can see where she would be coming from. But on the other hand, a lot of Japanese comedy relies on broad, physical humor and goofball antics.
Traditionally, it was based around puns.

I think the crazy humor comes mostly from the short period after midnight where people come home from work and only have an hour to relax and watch some TV before going to sleep. There's so much competition for eyes during that one hour that you can't not do something extreme, to stop people from channel-flipping.

The other 23 hours of the day, Japanese TV is just soap operas, baseball, sumo, news, and documentaries.
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Old 08-28-2018, 12:07 AM
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Late to the show, as always, but as far as the OP is concerned.....the answer is no. Teppanyaki is a type of Japanese restaurant, but the schtick that is associated with "Japanese steakhouses" in the States is an invention of Benihana.

-Benihana founder "Rocky" Aoki was a flashy, flamboyant guy. (A Japanese friend told me that his sartorial style came across more as a yakuza gangster than a Japanese businessman.). When he launched the original Benihana in Manhattan in the 60s., he figured that he needed a flashy gimmick to draw the crowds. While there was some theatricality from the chefs at Japanese teppanyaki restaurants, the American version went way over the top.

-Teppanyaki restaurants in Japan are primarily a vehicle to showcase pricy Japanese beef, such as Kobe beef or Matsuisaka beef. And it wasn't really that these restaurants were especially popular with foreigners, but they were popular with Japanese people who needed to entertain Western visitors on their expense accounts (pricy!)Te mos. ("Westerners all like eating beef. Let's take them out for teppanyaki!")

-While there are other foods prepared on a Teppan, I doubt anyone would call a restaurant specializing in cook-it-yourself okonomiyaki a teppanyaki joint.

-I would think the most common Teppan dish prepared at home in Japan would be yakisoba, not okonimiyaki or yakiniku.

-I wonder if American tourists who go to Japan visit teppanyaki restaurants and are disappointed because the chefs don't juggle knives or squirt sake into customer's mouths.
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Old 08-28-2018, 03:15 AM
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Nothing to add except I'm entirely in favor of having sake squirted into my mouth.




I know it's not the good stuff. I lived in Japan and sampled the sake intended for competition at a friend's father's brewery in Kure. Smooooth and dry.
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Old 09-11-2018, 05:33 PM
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Oddly enough, my mom picked up some books at a garage sale that she thought I might like, and one of them was a book on sake by Benihana founder Rocky Aoki.
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Old 09-11-2018, 10:33 PM
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My Japanese ex-wife was so offended she got up and walked out of Benihana claiming they were making a mockery of her culture.
Hmm, interesting...my Japanese wife enjoys the antics at the local teppanyaki restaurant. Tastes differ, I guess.
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Old 09-13-2018, 09:34 PM
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There is no 'performance' or 'antics' in Japanese teppanyaki, but there is skill in using the implements that is pleasant to watch. No one is going to catch anything behind their back, but there will be no wasted movements, no imprecise cuts.
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Old 09-13-2018, 10:35 PM
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They have Teppanyaki at Tokyo Skytree. No show, except if you see some fireworks outside the windows. Unlike their main restaurant, you can only make reservations for it by phone though.

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