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Japanese table-cooking is making a comeback

<p>Teppanyaki chef Luong Lao prepares dinner at Hokkaido. PHOTO: BILL HUGHES</p>

Teppanyaki chef Luong Lao prepares dinner at Hokkaido. PHOTO: BILL HUGHES

Remember Benihana? In the 1960s, it introduced a style of Japanese cooking known as teppanyaki, invented in Japan after World War II, to the American public. Chefs with big hats captivated the American public with their clicking knives, flying shrimp tails and onion volcanoes. By the ’90s, however, as the American dining scene grew more sophisticated, teppanyaki began to seem dated and gimmicky to many high-end diners.

Now teppanyaki is experiencing a renewed popularity. Beyond our local Benihana, which continues to operate at the LVH Hotel, you’ll find restaurants offering it in The Flamingo, MGM Grand and Wynn Las Vegas. At Aria, Chef Masa Takayama recently opened a teppanyaki spot called Tetsu. And when the legendary Nobu Matsuhisa opens the Nobu hotel tower in Caesars Palace, its lobby restaurant will offer it alongside his signature Japanese fusion.

One reason so many top casinos are embracing teppanyaki again is reportedly its popularity among Chinese tourists. But what about locals? Dozens of off-Strip restaurants offer it for a fraction of what you’ll pay in the casinos. Here are a few of the most popular:

OSAKA: The Nakanshini family has been operating Japanese restaurants in Las Vegas since the late ’60s. Today, the second generation operates three under the Osaka name — although there’s been a bit of a split in the family. The West Sahara location (4205 W. Sahara Ave., 876-4988) and the one in Henderson (10920 S. Eastern Ave., 616-3788) are run by son Gene, while daughter Joy has her own place in Summerlin (7511 W. Lake Mead Blvd., 869-9494). Full teppanyaki dinners will run you anywhere from $18 to $50.

HAMADA OF JAPAN: While the tourists flock to Hamada at The Flamingo, locals have been enjoying it on East Flamingo for two decades. Despite a move a few doors down to 365 E. Flamingo Road (733-3005) several years ago, the teppan is still as good as it ever was. While a dinner can run as high as $69 for the Hamada special (lobster, steak scallops and chicken), you can get a full chicken dinner for just $19.

HOKKAIDO: In Summerlin, Hokkaido (3555 S. Town Center Road, 487-5555) is a go-to spot for this type of cooking. The overall menu is smaller than what you’ll find at most of the other restaurants on this list — limited to sushi, teppanyaki and a handful of appetizers. But the meals from the grill are pretty affordable, starting at $16 for a vegetarian dinner, and topping out at $46 for a combination of filet mignon, scallops and lobster with all the trimmings.

HIKARI: This westside hangout (4175 S. Buffalo Drive, 889-6660) is best known for the fun late-night crowd that comes to enjoy one of the only all-you-can-eat sushi deals in town that also offers sashimi. But the teppanyaki is also great, and at $15-$33, the price can’t be beat.

Check out the rest of our Fall Dining issue:

Queen of the scene: Jolene Mannina throws the underground food events that attract big-name talent

Late for dinner: Being the spouse of a chef is often lonely

Not all fast food is terrible

‘Dine-arounds’ are among the most popular foodie events in town. But are there too many?