The Japanese grilling method known as robata uses an open flame, often from charcoal, says Silverjay. Teppan, in contrast, utilizes a flat, heated surface, made slick with vegetable oil, butter, or animal fat.
Robata mimicks the simple shore-side grilling of Japanese fishermen who skewer their catch and tilt it upright over an open fire, says cgfan. “Thus the robata tends to have a heavy focus on seafood, though many other protein items are also served,” he says. You might even see robata places in Japan go all-out with the fisherman theme and use oars to serve the food, says K K.
“The worst but easiest example of teppan cooking would be like Benihana,” says K K. The word “teppan” means “iron plate,” says cgfan, which was, at least originally, the material of choice for teppan. “It’s said that some teppan chefs even carry their own special teppan plate from job to job, but this is more than likely the stuff of folklore rather than anything real,” says cgfan.
Board Link: robata vs. teppan