The hibachi room at Kyoto Japanese Steak House. (Michael Cooper / American Press)
Last Modified: Thursday, May 30, 2013 12:24 PM
For his 8th birthday, my son begged us to take him to his favorite place to eat.
We agreed without knowing just what he had in mind.
To my surprise his choice was void of animatronic mice, video games, clowns or pizza of any kind.
He picked Kyoto Japanese Steakhouse, so we headed there for lunch earlier this week.
My wife and I have been to numerous places like Kyoto’s over the years as we are both huge fans of sushi and traditional Japanese cuisine.
But my son had only one thing in mind — hibachi.
If you’ve never experienced hibachi dining you have at least seen it on television or in a movie.
Think dinner and a show with a large group of sometimes total strangers.
A hibachi set up is basically a group of chairs, around 10 or so, horseshoed around a large griddle.
The chef prepares the meal in front of the guests and entertains them with spinning spatulas, flaming vegetables and flying food.
Hibachi dinning is a social activity and is not for the timid or anyone with food hang-ups.
The highlight for my son was trying to catch the balls of rice flung from across the table by the chef. I am proud to say that he caught more than he missed. I don’t know if that was skill on his part or the larger-than-normal mouth he inherited from me.
My daughter, on the other hand, wanted no part in the pitch-and-catch shenanigans. She was even less thrilled when the chef pretended to squirt soy sauce on her. Still, she said she had a good time and talked about it for days afterward.
My son ordered the steak and shrimp, my daughter picked the shrimp-only option and I went with the grilled calamari. All of the hibachi lunch specials come with soup, salad, fried rice and grilled vegetables.
All three of us loved our food from the grill. The fried rice did have a bit too much black pepper but the grilled squid and miso soup were fantastic. The steak and shrimp had to be good because my kids left nothing on the plate despite the healthy portion they were served.
My wife and mother-in-law passed on the hibachi and ordered the sushi lunch special.
Both said the sushi was good and quite a bit better than they expected.
Our hibachi chef at Kyoto’s was miles ahead of ones we’ve had at other restaurants. He was funny, friendly and really got the kids into the show.
Our waitress was also really good. She was knowledgeable about the menu, helpful in selecting dishes and checked on us many times during our dining experience.
Everyone in our group said they had a great time and want to go back soon. I would definitely suggest Kyoto’s to anyone who wants to try something different.
I have one warning though, it is a pricey. Our bill was over $100 for the five of us and that was for lunch. One look at the dinner menu and you could see that it could’ve been much higher.
Kyoto’s also has a sushi bar, regular tables, a few traditional Japanese sunken tables and a small drinking bar.
Since it was a lunch date I didn’t get a chance to sample Kyoto’s sake, which is a strong alcoholic drink made from fermented rice. Though it is usually served warm, I prefer to have it chilled or on ice. It is about twice as strong as beer.