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?

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.

Ditto to scr4. Never saw it in Japan. Benihana in the US was the first place I saw such a thing.

Thirded. Never saw this in Japan despite living there for 2.5 years and visiting for decades.

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.

It was this place, in fact:

My Japanese ex-wife was so offended she got up and walked out of Benihana claiming they were making a mockery of her culture.

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.”

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.

Moved to Cafe Society.

General Questions Moderator

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.

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.

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).


I have been to Japanese restaurant s in Australia that do the shtick. Never seen it in japan.

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.

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.

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.

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.