Japanese cooking style restaurants where they cook in front of you

                by Joost Nusselder | Updated:  December 21, 2020

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If you’ve previously had dinner at a hibachi restaurant, were you really able to enjoy every little aspect that came into creating your dinner?

You can certainly enjoy your meat, vegetables and rice’s excellent flavor and distinctive ingredients.

The Japanese restaurants where they cook in front of you are often called hibachi restaurants, and what they are actually cooking is called “Teppanyaki”, or grilling on a flat iron surface.

Japanese restaurants where they cook in front of you

Did you ever wonder where it all started? Where did the cooking concept originate from for hibachi?

You may be surprised by some of the backgrounds behind hibachi cooking.

Keep on reading to find out more about this favorite dining and entertainment mixture!

Showmanship in a hibachi restaurant:


What is hibachi-style cooking?

Hibachi is a grilling method that has developed over the years and originated in Japan.

Typically, on a big, flat-top stove made of sheet metal or cast iron, meats, vegetables, and rice are cooked.

The grill is smaller and portable in some cases, instead of being a permanent fixture inside a table or countertop.

Cooking Hibachi enhances food flavors rather than cover them up.

Typically, therefore, seasonings are restricted to the use of soy sauce and some salt, pepper, and vinegar. You can also use garlic in most dishes.

Hibachi goes by multiple names

As we know it, cooking in the Hibachi style has been called a lot of names.

The cooking style with which we are all acquainted is traditionally called teppanyaki, which approximately translates into “grilling on an iron plate.”

A traditional hibachi grill comprises an open grill for cooking meals, while a teppanyaki grill is a plain, firm barbecue.

Over the years, we have accepted cooking in the style of hibachi as a term that can be used for both hibachi and teppanyaki alike.

Read more on the difference between Hibachi and Teppanyaki in our article here.

Hibachi has a debatable and complex origin

Hibachi cooking’s precise background is uncertain and debatable. Some argue that hibachi cooking started over 200 years earlier in Japan, while others argue that since the mid-20th century it has only been around.

Hibachi cooking began on tiny, mobile grills, but over the years it has developed into a more complicated and interesting cooking type.

In 1945, Japan launched the first contemporary hibachi restaurant, Misono.

Chefs combined meals with amusement and made quite a show out of it using tricks like egg tossing and flaming volcanos, like the one in the picture above.

The restaurant was more common among overseas tourists than Japanese citizens, flashier and distinct from traditional Japanese cooking.

Hibachi has launched to the United States about 20 years ago and has only risen in popularity since then.

While little is recorded before 1945 and the roots are definitely debatable, one thing is certain: hibachi is adored all over the globe.

Read more: these are the most popular kinds of Japanese dishes

Hibachi is a mix of entertainment and skills

Hibachi chefs spend months in dedicated instruction learning knife tricks, cooking methods, and entertainment for their clients.

The theatrical flair is part of what makes hibachi such an attractive dinner option.

To render your cooking experience unforgettable, the mixture of knife abilities and distinctive tricks with the mouthwatering flavors is enough.

What kind of Japanese foods can be cooked in front of me?


Here are all the Japanese food kinds that are prepared in front of you; some are completely cooked for you, while others are served so you can cook them at your table for yourself.

They’re all delicious and distinctive Japanese plates, so be sure to try them all!

Types of food that are cooked at your table


Teppanyaki is literally translated to iron grill and may include okonomiyaki in its definition, but it usually relates to meat or seafood baked in a high-end restaurant over a grill.

You can sit at the counter in this type of restaurant and see the chef cook all the ingredients carefully before your eyes.


Robatayaki is a boiled fish or vegetable in a firehouse in the restaurant’s center area. You can also sit on a table and see the products cooked by the chef over a charcoal fire, giving them a subtle flavor of BBQ.


Kabayaki is an eel skewer, dipped in soy sauce and they slowly cooked over a grill. It’s often consumed during the summer in Japan since it’s thought to help with summer fatigue.


Yakitori consists of different chicken pieces held together by a skewer and then placed over a charcoal fire.

At casual restaurants, people gather around with friends and family but at smaller eating places such as street restaurants, people gather around at the counter to watch the chef grill the skewers.

Recently, high-end yakitori restaurants have started to appear. There you can enjoy yakitori in a more familiar, western setting and it’s even served with wine.

You can always ask the chef or waiter for what’s traditional, be sure to use sumimasen when you call them over.

Foods that you cook at your table

Shabushabu / Sukiyaki

These are both meals that you can cook using a hot pot right at the center of your table. Both shabu shabu and sukiyaki are thin pork or beef slices paired with vegetables, that you can cook yourself.

The difference is that sukiyaki is usually already in the hot pot and is seasoned and cooked with sweet soy sauce. For shabu shabu, on the other hand, you slowly add the ingredients and cook them as you wish and you can then dip them into a sesame or ponzu sauce.

Okonomiyaki (Hiroshima or Osaka style) / Monjayaki

When asked about these two dishes, Japanese people will usually describe okonomiyaki as a sort of Japanese pizza and monjayaki is a messier version of it. From my point of view, it isn’t really similar to a pizza.

It resembles more of a savory pancake packed with multiple ingredients. The ingredients can range from seafood, pork, mochi, and more.

They can also be topped with mayonnaise, bonito flakes, and bull-dog sauce.

When you order these plates, you’re usually given the ingredients pre-mixed in a bowl. You can then mix them to your desired consistency and cook them yourself on an iron plate.


Yakiniku can be translated as a Japanese BBQ. It consists of pork or beef (in some cases even chicken) that you can cook by yourself right at your table using a charcoal grill.

You can decide how cooked you want the meat. Even if you don’t have any BBQ experience, you’ll find it easy and enjoyable.

Ever had trouble finding Japanese recipes that were easy to make?

We now have "cooking Japanese with ease", our full recipe book and video course with step-by-step tutorials on your favorite recipes.

Joost Nusselder, the founder of Bite My Bun is a content marketer, dad and loves trying out new food with Japanese food at the heart of his passion, and together with his team he's been creating in-depth blog articles since 2016 to help loyal readers with recipes and cooking tips.