The Sun Chronicle highlights an unusual event concerning a Japanese restaurant in Mansfield that encountered issues due to its complimentary sake sprays.
The Sake Steak House, located in Mansfield Crossing, had to reconsider its renowned “hibachi” dining act after the establishment was criticized by the parents of a 19-year-old patron.
Mansfield’s Police Chief, Arthur O’Neill, determined that aside from serving a minor, the hibachi tradition of spraying sake—a Japanese rice wine—directly into customers’ mouths not only violated age restrictions but also transgressed the state’s ban against providing complimentary alcoholic beverages and conducting any contests or games centered around alcohol.
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Chief O’Neill addressed his concerns to the Mansfield selectmen, the town’s licensing body, who declared their intent to conduct a public disciplinary hearing for the restaurant without delay. Expressing his concern, Selectman Jess Aptowitz mentioned, “Upon reading the report, I found it deeply unsettling. We need to treat this matter with utmost seriousness.” Spritzing sake from bottles, often accompanied by the rallying cry “sake! sake!” has evolved into an iconic part of the hibachi dining experience.
In the U.S., “hibachi” might refer to small, mobile charcoal grills. However, in this scenario, it indicates performance teppanyaki culinary arts where guests gather around a chef who entertains with food flips and utensil juggling. Sake is not just for drinking; it also finds its way into cooking, playing a vital role in iconic hibachi dishes, such as the flaming onion volcano where the alcohol ignites.
Kevin Shi, Sake’s manager, addressed the incident involving the young adult, attributing it to an unfortunate oversight by the chef on duty that evening, who has been subsequently dismissed. Shi noted, “There seems to have been a significant miscommunication between the chef and the patron that evening. However, we have taken steps to rectify the situation.”
In contrast to some states with more relaxed alcohol regulations, Massachusetts stands firm against alcohol promotional activities, like offering drinks on the house during happy hours. The only exception is that establishments can offer complimentary alcohol during wine samplings. Since the grievance in late December, Shi informed the Sun Chronicle that Sake Steak House now ensures that any complimentary sips of sake provided by chefs are in minimal quantities, mirroring wine tasting amounts.
The incident underscores the importance of businesses being aware of and compliant with state regulations, particularly when it comes to alcohol consumption and distribution.