Like many kids, my girls adore Japanese hibachi. With hibachi, it’s all about gastro-tainment. Each hibachi table features a ‘chef’ who slices, dices, flambés, and performs small feats of dexterity — all while cooking your food in front of you.
Since I am somewhat of an accidental expert on the subject, here is my take on several Boston metro steakhouses that my family has tried.
Tokyo Japanese Steak House
Tokyo Japanese Steak House in the Shops at Chestnut Hill (199 Bolyston St) sits directly opposite Morano Gelato and the ever popular Frank Pepe’s Pizzeria. I’ve been to Tokyo twice: once to celebrate my daughter’s birthday, and another time with a visiting relative. Food-wise, Tokyo is probably my favorite. I really enjoy the flavors of their hibachi shrimp and chicken (not a beef-eater so no comment there) as well as the accompaniments. The sushi I’ve tried has been quite respectable, if not the most innovative. And here’s a nice touch: if you let them know you’re celebrating a birthday, they will bring you a complimentary dessert. No problem getting a last minute reservation for 6pm on a Saturday night. At least we haven’t had issues. Tokyo is open 7 days a week from 11:30am-10/11pm.
Samba Steak & Sushi
Samba Steak & Sushi in Framingham (1138 Worcester Rd) is a large stand-alone restaurant on Rte 9 Eastbound and boasts a lower level that can be rented out for private parties. Seven of us walked in on a random Saturday around 8pm and had no problem getting a hibachi table. They do offer free lunch or dinner for children 10 & under with purchase of an adult entree, which is a nice touch. Samba has other marks in its favor. In the warmer months, you can enjoy outdoor seating though it’s not clear whether they offer hibachi outside. If you’re a fan of karaoke, you can partake from 9pm-closing every Thursday-Sunday or, if sushi-making is your thing, you can sign up for classes several nights a week. They have a house magician on Sundays 5-8pm, but I would call ahead before making any promises to the kiddos. Despite all these extras, Samba is my least favorite of the three. That’s because when we’ve gone much of the restaurant was unpleasantly smoky. It’s as if the grills are not being properly vented. Another strike against Samba: it’s slightly more expensive than either Tokyo or Edamame. Samba is open 7 days a week from 11am onward.
Edamame Steak House
Edamame Steak House (171 Watertown St, Watertown) is hidden away in the Stop & Shop strip mall on the Newton/Watertown border. The eatery specializes in sushi and Japanese hibachi. I suspect a large part of their business is take-out sushi for nearby office workers. Small as it is, my kids probably love Edamame the best, and I’ve always found it easy to get a table. Add to that, its accessibility and easy parking and you’ll understand why we’ve been there a number of times. One of the chefs — whom we’ve had twice — actually remembers us, which is of kind of fun. While I’m not in love with the taste of their hibachi items, I am a fan of their sushi. Edamame opens at 11:30am Monday-Saturday and at noon on Sundays.
How Hibachi Works
As far as format goes, all three follow a similar model: your group will be seated around a hibachi station. Depending on the size of your party, you may be seated with other diners or vice versa. A server comes and takes your orders. The chef follows shortly thereafter, confirms each diner’s order, then begins the “show.” If you are game, the chef will try to pop a small piece of vegetable (usually zucchini) into your mouth. There will be also be a fire-spewing onion ring “volcano” and a water-filled squirt bottle (shaped like a small boy “peeing”) that the chef will squirt into the kids’ mouths.
Prices don’t vary a whole lot between restaurants. Hibachi dinners hover around $19-25 + tax & tip/adults and $11-15 + tax & tip/kids. Dinners come with a choice of meat including steak, chicken, shrimp, scallop, tofu, etc; white rice (extra $ for fried rice); and grilled veggies. All but Samba include a bowl of soup with the hibachi dinner and most include a salad with yummy ginger dressing. Samba includes a complimentary fried ice cream after dinner.
So, if you’re looking for a way to mark a special occasion such as a child’s birthday or sports achievement, I recommend you check out your closest Japanese steakhouse. No matter where you choose to go, I predict your kids will love it!