There are only two occasions for which the average person would eat a hibachi dinner. The first is a birthday or special family event. The second is when you’re 14-20 because it’s typically BYOB and you’re not allowed to be carded during a Japanese culinary experience; rules are rules. That’s it. Other than the aforementioned, random hibachi outings are weird. But if someone invites me, I’m there. I won’t plan it. Let me say that again. I will not plan a random hibachi outing. But if an invitation arrives, I’m fucking there baby because that’s what you do when someone asks you to go for hibachi. You go.
Hibachi dinners should be about good food with good people, with a side of laughs. The entertainment factor supersedes all other components of a night out at hibachi dinner. Just last week I had a chef who cooked up a dope meal, but he performed approximately zero tricks. And that’s really what it’s all about. Hibachi is one big production. It’s about the pageantry and the pizzazz. I want to walk out of that restaurant saying “WOW! What a show!” I know the food will deliver. But if the theater lacks, it’s all for naught.
So without further ado, I present to you a comprehensive list of the Top 5 Hibachi Chef Tricks.
5. General Knife/Spatula Handling
I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking to yourself “Uhh that’s not special at all and they always do that.” Do you know why they always do that? They do that because without the spatula juggling, there are no other tricks. This is the stretch before the workout. This is the bread before the meal. This is the shower beer before the pregame. This is the foreplay before the fucking. You’re not going to talk about this on the ride home, but you damn well will respect the art of the knife skills and spatula juggling. I think they bang it down on the grill solely for dramatic effect and added sound, but I still love it and so do you. They have to walk before they can run. They have to master the basics fundamentals before they start doing cartwheels behind the grill.
4. The Fried Rice Heart
Also included under this category is the “I ❤ U” artwork on the grill using vegetables, rice, noodles, etc. I have a sneaky suspicion many will disagree with this choice. And I get it. It’s not much of a trick, and in theory, anyone standing behind the grill can do this with relative ease. But the reason why it has rightfully earned a spot on the list is because hearts represent love, and food is love. I want my chef to love me and portray his love through his food. If you have a problem with that, you and your cold black heart can take a lap.
3. The Egg Juggle/Toss
Hibachi chefs have an arsenal of egg-related tricks. I had to lump them all under one headline because there’s too many variations to separate and compare them. Generally the chef starts with spinning the egg on the grill, or as they so cleverly coin it, the egg roll. That’s a classic nickname. Next up comes the juggling on the spatula, alternating sides of the spatula with each volley. Only two roads to head down at this point, and I think you know where I’m going. My personal preference is the flip into the hat; I’d be fine with the flip into the jacket pocket, but the hat is big and tall for a reason, to throw food in there. There’s also the crack over the spatula as the end of the juggle. The chef turns the spatula on its side so that when the egg comes down the idle spatula splits the egg shell in two. There’s no hibachi dinner without egg tricks.
2. Zucchini Toss
The zucchini toss is a classic because it’s virtually the same thing every single time. There’s always someone in the group who catches the toss on the first try. They’ll flex and give a quick smirk but usually don’t overdo it on the celebration. And then there’s always the one who has no chance. The chef will give them an extra two or three tries, but no number would actually be enough because if they didn’t have more food to cook, they’d be there all day hitting someone in the face with zucchini. It’s usually my mom when my family does hibachi. We know she has no chance, she knows she has no chance, and the chef knows after the first try that there’s no hope. But again, rules are rules, so they have to try. And after two misses the one who nailed it first go around will undeniably let them hear about it. The zucchini toss is a staple and one of the first pages in the How To Succeed In Hibachi bible. Side note: it’s essentially raw zucchini that we willingly eat, yet nobody has ever objected because the zucchini toss is a blast time and time again. There’s no better example of the chef/diner interaction that any hibachi experience elicits.
1. Onion Volcano
The gold medal of the hibachi tricks. Without the onion volcano, the entire hibachi experience is null and void. Might as well leave your plate of food untouched because a major omission was made during the hibachi journey. Nobody ever appreciates the level of technical skill it takes to nail the onion volcano, so allow me to use this platform to do so. They separate each layer of the onion and then stack them in order using a two-pronged fork and a knife (I think). I’d have trouble doing that with two hands let alone two utensils. Then again these guys are pros and their level of comfort with their tools can equate to my comfort with my dick in my hand. Apologies for the vulgarity but I needed to drive that point home.
The onion volcano cannot be beaten. I know I’m getting it every time, and it gets grinning ear to ear each time. Nothing puts asses in the seats like the onion volcano. Sure the Filet Mignon and Shrimp combo is delicious. Sure the average hibachi portion yields enough for three. Sure the language barrier always comes into play at some point. But when it’s all said and done, people come for the onion volcano, and they come back for the onion volcano. I also like when they parlay the onion volcano into the onion choo choo train.
Each individual hibachi experience is unique despite a similar bag of tricks each chef brings with them, pun intended. Was that a pun? Seemed like it. Moving on. It wasn’t easy solidifying the Top 5 because there are so many awesome elements to any quality hibachi experience. So without further ado, it’s only fair to give some shine to the ones who just missed the cut but deserve a shout out. For starters, the big fire. This is basically the same as when a server emerges from any kitchen holding a plate of sizzling fajitas. You hear, see, and smell that, and you know somebody’s about to house some fajitas; you see the big flame at a nearby grill, you feel the heat, and you know that as of that very moment, it’s about to go down. So shout out to the big fire, something I always look forward to.
When it comes to little fires (see: Onion Volcano), the flame needs to be extinguished somehow. And what better route to take than the little kid peeing squirt bottle? Wait, what did you just say? I’ll clarify for you dummies who didn’t instantly understand that. It’s a water bottle that looks like a boy, and when you squirt it, water comes out but it looks like the boy is peeing. So simple yet so hilarious. And last but not least, and honorable mention is deserved for the sake pour. Chefs often use sake to ignite a flame or just to fuck with patrons sitting mesmerized around the table. But the best is when they offer the sake squirt to someone which leads to a mouthful (and then some) of sake for person A, and then person B, and then person C, all the way around the table until every person is covered in sake because when they each gave the thumbs up to the chef, signifying their mouth was at capacity with sake, the chef continued on anyway because it’s always funny when someone’s mouth literally overflows with sake. What a sentence that was. Not exactly a hibachi chef trick, but I also very much enjoy when they let someone hit the gong on their birthday. Where else can you hit a gong? Nowhere, that’s where.
Even though I believe my opinion to be fact almost all of the time, food and anything food-related is very much subjective. So if you agree or disagree, I’d love to hear your feedback. A little hibachi banter never killed anyone.
Also posted at HotSaladWorld.com.