Osaka in Brookline serves up sizzling food mixed with theatrics
The service at most restaurants is more demure. By mid-meal, a young man seated at Osaka’s waist-high steel-top teppanyaki counter looks a bit terrified. The chef, Chinese and in dress whites, is yelling at him from the bar. “Open your mouth, Brendan! Come on!’’ Out comes the squirt bottle, and an arc of alcoholic sake jets into Brendan’s mouth. Fellow diners count along: “One! Two! Three!’’ Brandon makes it to 13 before the sake drools out over his shirt. The chef relents, gesturing and declaiming: “More sake, more honey!’’ Over the course of the evening, many other words will be contorted to rhyme with sake. Antics like these are not uncommon in US teppanyaki bars, sometimes called “hibachi restaurants.’’ The restaurant genre, and its physical theatrics, were developed by the unpredictable Olympic wrestler and restaurateur Rocky Aoki at his Benihana chain in the 1960s. Aoki had three children by three women at the same time, and once (in 1961) broke my father’s nose at a college wrestling practice. Osaka in Brookline is faithful to the model - the chef’s banter is rated R, and the cooking antics could break your nose.