I’m turning 12 and I’m out for my birthday dinner. Across the counter from me is a wisecracking daredevil with a hip holster full of knives. He's juggling squeeze bottles and conjuring fireballs on a ripping-hot flat-top grill—and then he makes a flaming volcano out of a sliced onion.
At some point, he hits my mom in the arm with a shrimp. I laugh until I cry, and then he serves me a plate of savory, buttery steak; caramelized stir-fried vegetables; zippy white sauce; and fried rice. Decades later, the taste of a “hibachi” dinner (“teppanyaki” would be a more accurate term) can still return me to that revelatory moment from my childhood.