Maybe their parents never told them: "Don't play with their food." At Sasaki Japanese Steak House in Lake Wylie, the masterful table-side cooking is both entertaining and great tasting.
It's not just the hibachi chefs who have all the fun creating onion volcanoes, tossing eggs (not boiled) off the spatula into their hats and calling the shrimp sauce "Lake Wylie ketchup" and while spinning an egg on the grill, calling it "A Japanese egg roll." Even our waiter said of our Yakitori appetizer (of skewered teriyaki chicken on a bed a lettuce for $4.95), "Here's your chicken nuggets on a stick."
While some diners might not like the idea of being seated at a table with strangers or having the chef pretending to (or not) throw shrimp into your mouth, it's all in good fun.
Although it's great for group dinners and special occasions, such as a birthday party (in fact, a group with balloons and all came in Tuesday evening), it's just as fun for a couple, a family or by yourself -- and you won't need to bring a book.
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My companion had never sat at a Japanese steakhouse before. The first time he ate here, we grabbed one of the many tables available in the back with a view of the three table-side dining areas. There's also a small bar.
This time, we requested the grill seating, and as our waiter brought our drinks, and took our order, four more people were seated with us. We were just as quickly served our salads and soup before the chef came out with his cart of "tricks," including a little plastic guy I noticed who eventually was used to help douse some fires. (Yes, these cooks know how to heat things up.)
As the chef fried the rice, warmed up the noodles and even sliced up a couple pieces of shrimp for everyone, he tossed some of each on our plates. Between the wonderful Yakitori appetizer, which would be perfect for a lunch, and this, I was beginning to feel full already.
The laughter, and even some oohs and ahhs, are continuous until the chef has completed each order. Another bonus about having the chef cook it right there in front of you is that you can be request and be sure your order is made to your liking, like one woman at our table who wanted her side of carrots burnt.
Once my combination dinner of filet (considered the "house specialty") and lobster ($29.95) was on my plate, I knew there'd be no way to finish. This definitely would have been a meal to share, although I don't mind taking home leftovers for dinner tomorrow, too. I tried my companion's steak from his combo dinner, and although he thought it tasted great -- "Like steak, not all spiced up," he said -- I was spoiled by the tenderness of my excellent filet chunks.
As for the lobster, seeing the large tail the chef cooked up, I knew I'd be happily having lobster again the next day. Although it wasn't the most succulent lobster I've had, it tasted the way lobster should, and it wasn't rubbery. Plus, around every fork turn, I seemed to find another piece.
Needless to say, I enjoyed Sasaki's casual, welcoming environment. Although the decor isn't much to write home about, it's the food that's most important.
The menu is three-pages long, plus a page of adult beverages, with prices for entrees ranging from $10.95 to $39.95 for a Love Boat of tempura, California roll, steak, shrimp and scallops -- yes, of course, there's sushi, too. (The salmon rolls I've had have been of good size and fresh every time.)
There's a children's menu for those ages 10 and younger of chicken, steak or shrimp meals ($7.95 to $8.95). If you can't eat in, Sasaki offers a take-out menu of entrees and combination dinners only.
My dinner at Sasaki was great all around, especially thanks to its fun style -- but please, don't try their silly food tricks at home ... "try them at a friend's house."
Sasaki Japanese Steak House
Location: 4547 Charlotte Hwy., Lake Wylie
Hours: 5 to 9:30 p.m. seven days a week; lunch served noon to 2 p.m. Sundays
Ambiance: Casual, table-side Japanese cuisine