Pete Gilbert">

Hibachi dinner with kids. What could go wrong?

This year we decided not only would we do Valentine’s day as a family, but our family of five would go with our friends’ family of five as well.

Our reservations were for early in the night. That part of the planning was perfect. The restaurant was packed with families. There were a few childless couples seated next to large families that looked like they would rather be anywhere else but there. I don’t think they were planning on this nice restaurant feeling like a Chuck E. Cheese’s on Valentine’s Day. Luckily, our group was a party of 10, so there would be extra seats for an unfortunate couple to spend their evening with our rowdy crew.

As we walked through the restaurant to our seats, one of the other hibachi chefs was cooking for a group of people and started a huge fire on his grill. Our kids were horrified. They’d roasted marshmellows a million times, sat in front of countless indoor fireplaces, but the sight of a four-foot flame inside a resatauant was too much for them to handle. It never occured to any of us that our six kids, ranging in ages from 2 – 8, would be afraid of the fire on the grill.

We weren’t even seated yet, and it already looked like going to this restaurant was a bad decision. When we made it to the table there was the usual arguing over who would sit where. This time, in addition to the arguing, they were all complaining “I don’t want fire, ” and “I’m scared of this place.” Things were not looking good.

We finally figured out seating and opened the menu. First order of business was ordering a beer (large please, thank you very much!) for me and other “grown up drinks” for the adults. Next on the agenda was figuring out what the kids were going to eat. Like with most small kids, ordering a kid’s meal at a restaurant is a crapshoot. You never know if they are going to inhale the entire meal, or not take a single bite. Normally I’m ok with this gamble, when the kids meals are in the $4-6 price range, but the cheapest kids meals at this place were ten bucks each. $10 a meal, multiplied by six kids total = A big gamble. They even had filet mignot on the kids menu ($14.95). Another bummer with the kid meals is that they didn’t even come with a drink, they came with soup or salad instead. Not sure how your kids are, but mine aren’t too fond of broth soup with mushrooms in it. In fact, they call mushrooms “worm germs” so we went ahead and got them salads.

As we listened to our kids complain and looked over the menu prices, my friend summed up my sentiments pretty well when he said, “I might as well pay someone two-hundred dollars to beat me in the parking lot with a stick, it’d be just about as enjoyable as this.”

As things were looking pretty bleak, and I was ready to bail on the whole night, our salads arrived. To my surprise my kids ate every bite of salad and even drank the leftover dressing right out of the bowls. Gross right? But, you can’t complain with your mouth full of food, so we went ahead and let them do it.

As we finished up our salads and the kids licked the dressing bowls clean, our hibachi chef rolled up his cart and started the show. He immediately had the kids’ attention as he juggled eggs, caught them in his hat, and cracked them with the side of his spatula. Our kids had an agreement with him that he could start fires at our table, but they had to be “kid-size.” The kids still hid under the table during each fire, but at least the screaming stopped. Minutes later he had all of us entertained by chopping, tossing, flipping and flinging rice into our mouths.

In the end, the kids ate almost all the food on their plates. The show put on by the chef was amazing, and a great time was had by all. Will we return on another Valentine’s Day? Maybe V-Day 2018 when the kids aren’t quite so afraid of fire.

-Pete

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