The Japanese are known for making portable objects for individuals and small groups. They created the world's first on-the-go vinyl player. After World War II, Americans adopted the Japanese hibachi grill to cook steak outdoors.
The hibachi table is the center of attention
Today, North Americans eat out at hibachi restaurants, sitting around a large square grill while watching their food cooked live in front of them. What people like about hibachi is the dining experience. Unlike the typical restaurant table that pits diners face to face, the cook and the grill are the center of attention at the hibachi. Although you may sit with some strangers, the setup, and the subsequent entertainment remove the friction of anonymity.
Perhaps one of the hallmarks of eating hibachi is the food toss. It's impossible not to root for the person who's trying to catch a piece of an egg thrown into their mouth. Mouths open wide, neck stretched, it's the one moment where people act like a begging dog.
The first taste is always with your eyes
In addition to feeling part of a small friendly community, people also like the transparency of hibachi. The food cooks right before your eyes, whetting the appetite; after all, the first taste is always with your eyes. Seeing all the vegetables, meat, and fish steam and chopped on the grill makes you appreciate the cooking process. The food doesn't cook itself!
The closest you'll get to a hibachi experience at an Italian restaurant is the pizza oven. Rarely do you get to see how the pasta sauce and noodles get made. A little transparency further validates good tasting food.
Hibachi dining is like participating in a live experiment–the cook is the lead scientist while the rest of us watch and take mental notes. But the best of all? We get to eat the subject at hand, in this case, freshly cooked food.