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It’s practically human tradition to cook food over fire, although nowadays most people prefer to pop their food in a microwave or oven for quick, easy food.
Even when we go to restaurants the process of cooking is tucked away in the back, and we only get to see the final product.
I think that’s why there is something that is so fun about going to a restaurant and having your food cooked in front of you! It feels like you’re taking in a show and getting a delicious meal all at once.
Plus, the experience lets you customize your meal so you can get exactly what you want, and you get that fun of watching something cooked over fire! Well, not a complete fire, but pretty close!
So, what cuisines cook food in front of you? One of the most common cuisines that cook in front of you is Japanese teppanyaki grill. You can also get Korean barbecue cooked over a hibachi served right in front of you. Whichever you choose, you’re in for a treat!
Read on to discover more about the different cuisines that cook in front of you, what they are, what kinds of meals they serve, what the experiences are like, and more!
Teppanyaki Style Cooking: What Is It?
One of the most popular styles of cuisines that cook food in front of you in North America is a teppanyaki restaurant (like Benihana’s). This style of cooking is often confused with another popular cooking style called hibachi.
Teppanyaki likely has its roots in hibachi cooking, but it is believed to have been created by Japanese chefs after World War 2. Teppanyaki grills are large, flat metal (often iron) griddles that are heated by propane (typically).
These grills can be used indoors so that the chefs can prepare the food right in front of the guests as they dine.
This cooking style focuses a lot on the excellent knife skills of the chefs and the entertainment of the guests. It’s like getting a cooking show with your meal!
The word teppanyaki literally translates to iron plate (teppan) and pan-fried, boiled, or grilled (yaki), so it describes exactly the culinary experience you get at a teppanyaki restaurant.
What Kind Of Food Do They Serve At Teppanyaki Restaurants?
While there is virtually no limit to the types of dishes that can be served at a teppanyaki restaurant, often the chefs will prepare meat, seafood, noodle dishes, rice dishes, chopped veggies, and other delicious side dishes.
Some chefs consider this style of cooking a combination of Eastern (Japanese) flavors with Western-style dishes.
The main thing, is that the chefs knife skills and performance art are on display throughout the whole meal, which showcases their talent and the delicious food.
This style of cooking focuses on fresh flavors and ingredients and light seasonings. The combinations are delicious and filling! Some of the most popular dishes served at teppanyaki restaurants include:
- Noodles (many restaurants use thick and chewy udon noodles)
- Beef (you can choose from cuts such as filet mignon, tenderloin, strip steak, Chateaubriand, etc.)
- Eggs (often a part of a fried rice dish!)
- Savory pancakes (called okonomiyaki and monjayaki). They are filled with various flavors and ingredients.
- Finely chopped veggies including mushrooms, onions, garlic, zucchini, carrots, bean sprouts, and scallions.
The food is typically cooked in soybean oil (though it can vary by restaurant) and seasoned with vinegar, soy sauce, wine, salt, pepper, sake, sesame seeds, Teriyaki sauce, chilies/hot sauce, and special house-made sauces and seasonings.
Of course there can be a lot of variation depending on the restaurant that you go to, where it’s located, the chef’s specialties, and more.
But in general, you can hope to choose from a wide array of dishes that can be customized to your own tastes!
What Is It Like Eating At A Teppanyaki Restaurant?
Eating at a teppanyaki is like going to the theater and having a meal all at the same time!
The chefs are highly skilled and highly trained professionals who do a great job of including the guests in the cooking process and making it a fun event.
When you go to a teppanyaki restaurant, you are able to communicate with your chef so you have a lot of control over the final dish that is prepared for you.
You’re able to choose whether you want meat or seafood. If you want more or less oil or seasoning.
You can also choose the sides and sauces that you want to have with your meal, so it truly is a fun and customizable experience.
In addition to playing an active role in the creation of your meal, you will also be delighted by the tricks and skills of your chef. In many restaurants, you will see chefs perform really cool tricks such as:
- Flip a shrimp tail into their shirt pocket.
- Flip a piece of shrimp into the guests’ mouths.
- Catching an egg on their hat.
- Throwing an egg in the air and splitting it in two with their spatula.
These are just some fun tricks you will see. The incredible knife skills and speed with which these chefs can cook is so fun to watch! Japanese chefs are renowned for their skills in the kitchen, especially their knife skills.
At a teppanyaki restaurant, you won’t be able to take your eyes off the chef or the grill!
What’s The Difference Between Hibachi Cooking And Teppanyaki?
While many people refer to restaurants such as Benihana’s as hibachi grills, they are actually teppanyaki restaurants. While the two types of cooking styles originated in Japan, there are some differences between them.
The biggest difference between the two is the cooking surface. As mentioned above, teppanyaki grills are flat, metal surfaces that are typically heated with propane.
Hibachis, on the other hand, require has more of a barbecue-style grill with grates.
Traditionally, a hibachi has a cylindrical-shaped container with an open top (that’s where the grill goes).
In fact, hibachi means “fire bowl.” While modern-day hibachis may burn propane or other heat sources, in the past they used wood and charcoal for a distinctive flavor.
While teppanyaki-style cooking was created in the 40s in touristy areas of Japan, people believe that hibachi-style cooking dates back to the Heian period.
This period lasted from 794 AD to 1185 AD, so hibachis have been around for a long time!
Korean Barbecue: What Is It?
Another type of cuisine that can be cooked in front of you is Korean Barbecue. It often uses a hibachi-style grill (more like the traditional hibachi as opposed to the Japanese teppanyaki).
This style of cooking is thought to have ancient roots that date back to the Goguryeo era which lasted from 37 BC to 668 AD.
While originally this style of cooking was of meat roasted over fire on skewers, it has evolved into a tabletop phenomenon that is as fun as it is delicious.
What Kind Of Food Do They Serve At Korean Barbecue Restaurants?
Like teppanyaki, Korean barbecue restaurants serve a wide variety of foods, but the main event is often some kind of meat, especially beef.
Unlike teppanyaki, which is delicately flavored and relies on dipping sauces to season the food, Korean BBQ often uses marinades, especially for tougher cuts.
A lot of the flavors you’ll find in the marinades come from a combination of the following:
- Sesame Oil
- Gochugaru (Korean chili powder)
- Soy Sauce
- Rice Syrup
- Brown Sugar
- Asian Pear
Of course there are other flavor profiles, but these are some of the most common. It’s a great cooking style for people who have an adventurous palate and who love spicy sweet meats!
Check out a little more about some of the most popular dishes you’ll find grilled up for you at a Korean barbecue restaurant:
Galbi Or Bulgogi
One of the most popular dishes you’ll find is called Galbi, a type of short rib. Bulgogi is made from thin slices of sirloin, ribeye, or brisket.
Both are marinated in a delicious, but delicate sauce that combines sesame oil with sweet Asian pear, brown sugar, and mirin for a salty-sweet delight!
For any spice and pork lovers out there, this dish should definitely make it to your plate.
It’s marinated in gochujang and other herbs and spices for an incredibly flavorful and rich grilling experience.
If you’re looking for a chicken dish, then this is the way to go! The name translates to “fire chicken,” so you know you’re in for some heat.
The marinade is the perfect combination of salty, spicy, and sweet that combines perfectly with chargrilled chicken thighs.
This sauce is a non-negotiable at most Korean barbecue tables since you can put it on literally everything. It’s a combination of:
- Doenjang (Korean fermented soybean paste)
- Gochujang (Korean chili paste)
- Korean rice syrup
- Sesame seeds
What Else Is On The Table At A Korean Barbecue?
In addition to all these delicious grilled meats, you will have a selection of garnishes, lettuce or perilla leaves to wrap your meat in, rice, and side dishes.
And while meat is the star of the show, you can often get seafood like shrimp, fresh veggies, and other delicious things grilled up to your liking.
Some common things you’ll find on the table at a Korean barbecue include:
- Perilla leaves or lettuce
- Garnishes: thin-sliced fresh chilies, garlic, scallions, toasted sesame seeds
- Side dishes (banchan): kimchi, marinated greens like spinach or watercress, fermented or pickled veggies, rolled omelets, fried anchovies
What Is It Like Eating At A Korean Barbecue Restaurant?
Eating at a Korean barbecue restaurant is SO much fun! While it doesn’t have quite the same amount of showmanship as you would find at a teppanyaki grill, it’s still a very hands-on and delicious experience.
When you get to the restaurant you will be taken to a table with a hibachi grill in the middle. This grill is where the magic happens!
You can order what things you’d like from the menu and then the trained staff will come and grill and flip it for you.
The highly trained chefs and servers are pros at cooking and preparing the feast using tongs and a pair of scissors. While they might not make any onion volcanoes, their handiwork is still super fun and exciting to watch.
Once they serve up all the grilled meat (or seafood or veggies depending on what you order), you can then build your own little one-bite bundles.
Put some rice, meat, garnishes, and sauce inside a lettuce or Perilla leaf, wrap it up, and scarf it down.
You will also have banchan (remember those side dishes?) scattered around the table.
These goodies are meant to be eaten between bites of the barbecued meat wraps (ssam) to cleanse the palate and provide a little relief from the richness of the dishes.
Korean barbecue is best enjoyed with a large group so that you can try lots of delectable dishes and styles.
You can also order dishes that aren’t prepared on the grill like dumplings, soups, savory pancakes, and noodle dishes, especially the refreshing cold noodle and broth dish, naengmyeon.
Can I Buy My Own Teppanyaki or Hibachi Grills?
If you have been to either a teppanyaki or hibachi grill and fell in love with the cooking styles and flavors, then you might be interested in trying to replicate them at home.
In order to do so, you’ll need to invest in the proper equipment. And always make sure your kitchen has proper ventilation!
Traditional hibachis that are safe to use indoors can be quite expensive, but if it’s something you really love then it could be worth the investment. This model is of great quality!
This smaller model is more affordable, but not quite as traditional. It will still work great though!
If you want a super fun, multi-use Korean barbecue grill with raclettes to prepare customized dishes, then this model is a great option! It has cooking stones, frying pans, and adjustable temperatures.
However, it’s not a traditional grill style (more of a flat sheet) and is heated electrically instead of wood or charcoal. And for all your teppenyaki needs, this electric portable grill is perfect!
Now that we’ve gone over some of the most popular cuisines that feature the food being cooked right in front of you, let’s take a look at a few related questions on the subject!
What is tableside dining?
While Japanese teppanyaki and Korean barbecue are both done on grills right in front of you, there is another type of dining called table-side dining. This style is a little less flashy and fun and you’ll often find it at fine dining restaurants.
Tableside dining is when a chef prepares some or all of your meal right next to your table, usually on a little cart of some sort.
They can prepare entire salads, flambé desserts, carve meats, and more. If you go to Mexican restaurants they will sometimes make amazing table side guacamole!
What is Russian silver service?
Russian silver service style is similar to tableside dining in that a chef comes to your table and prepares some of your meal next to your table on a cart.
However, instead of serving individual dishes, the food is put onto serving platters and passed around so that everyone can make their own meal.
If you haven’t gotten a chance to see teppanyaki cooking in person yet, here’s a great example of what it’s like to be at one of these restaurants!
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