"We went to a Japanese "steakhouse" tonight for DD's birthday
. This was the kind of place where several parties of people sit around a hibachi, and the chef puts on a "show" with flying knives, chopping and tossing food around, and setting fires. The food was good, but the main draw of the place is the preparation. How authentic is the "show" in Japan, or is it purely theater?"
That's called teppanyaki, and it's both theater and authentic in Japan. If you attend often, you'll see that (assuming the chef is good) the show is very exacting like a martial arts routine. The accuracy to the routine is part of it, like a tea ceremony where perfect execution honors the guests, so the chefs rehearse as much as any dancer. In fact, once at Teppan Edo (the teppanyaki restaurant in Walt Disney World), I said something offhand that got a really good response. When our chef had finished and left, one of the other people at the table (not in my party) said, "he didn't say much, did he?" I replied, "True, but his execution was very nearly flawless." The manager nearby heard me say that and apparently told the chef, who returned to the table to thank me personally.