BEST USE OF A ROCK (2007)
Taneko Japanese Tavern
Leave it to the Japanese to come up with yet another clever, interactive way to cook your own food with friends: Ishiyaki, which uses a smooth, superheated black river stone for sizzling up delicate slices of raw meat. The folks behind Taneko aren't Japanese no doubt you're already familiar with their other restaurants, P.F. Chang's and Pei Wei but they've embraced ishiyaki as a house specialty at their newest venture, which was inspired by Japan's ubiquitous izakaya (pubs). Here, they call it Hot Rock, but the idea's the same. They bring said rock to the table in a dish full of salt, which isn't affected by the heat. (Don't even think of touching it, lest you're ready turn your fingertips into tataki.) Next comes a platter of raw American Kobe beef, cut into perfect bite-sized pieces. Drop one onto the rock, watch it quickly cook, and then dip it into a garlicky, gingery sauce made with ponzu (a tart Asian citrus fruit). It's juicy, flavorful, and downright fun. But beware if you overcook your pricey piece of meat, you only have yourself to blame.