“Want fries with that?”
Readers may be accustomed to hearing this question while zipping through a drive-thru for dinner. But this isn’t the case at Hibachi To Go. It’s more like: “Want hand-wrapped crab wontons and homemade sweet-and-sour sauce with that?”
Don’t let the fast-food-style ordering system throw you for a loop. The cuisine at Hibachi’s new midtown location is as freshly made as it gets. I’ll admit: When I spotted the quick-serve line of cars, I was hesitant. I don’t often request seafood through a window (unless it’s coming from a well-respected food truck). I ordered my feast over the phone, but still had the option of going inside. If anyone else were faced with this decision, they’d probably have come to the same conclusion I did: Why interrupt a perfectly good bout of laziness when you can receive your noodles without even unbuckling your seatbelt?
The first thing I noticed was the sanitation sign at a whopping 98 percent, which put me immediately at ease. The friendly employee inside was likely the same person who took my massive order over the phone. Even with a laundry list of items, he nailed it without a hitch and was personable as could be when I arrived at the window. Since I was actually taking my meal to go (as the name implies) and not eating it hot out of the wok, I made sure to heat everything thoroughly as to guarantee the food’s quality wouldn’t decrease. Word to the wise: Always reheat fried things via oven, and they’ll crisp back up in no time.
Crunchy things first…
I started my meal by digging into the vegetable spring rolls and crab wontons. Both came with a sticky sweet-and-sour sauce for dipping, and it tasted far more authentic than the artificial orange stuff in packets. The spring roll was a touch greasy, but had much more flavor inside than average frozen Chinese-delivery rolls. The wontons were so righteous, my fiancé pretended he didn’t realize he had already eaten three (when we were both only allotted two). (Note to self: a half order of anything stuffed with cream cheese will never be enough.) They boasted a fresh, thoughtfully made filling.
The best way to define Hibachi’s fare is by comparing it to that of average Chinese takeout. For folks used to the latter, I’m pleased to report this food will blow it all away. Although Hibachi does fall into the category of fast Asian cuisine—and healthier when sticking to Hibachi-style dishes, sans heavy sauces—the major difference is in the obvious high-quality ingredients. I dig gyoza, but it’s not easy to find them done right. Hibachi’s thin, crispy half-moons were loaded with meaty chicken. After realizing they partnered like a pro with Hibachi To Go’s soy-ginger sauce, I could have eaten a dozen more.
Let’s talk soup and salad.
Unfortunately, the restaurant was out of hot-and-sour soup, so I went with the wonton instead. The flavor of the soup’s homemade broth was far superior to anything I’d get with quick Chinese. The delicate pork-loaded wontons and real scallion rounds put other spoonfuls of slurp to shame. As for my greens, I opted for the seaweed salad. My fiancé claimed it tasted like all others he’s had, but I tasted hint of fishiness that didn’t sit well on my palate.
The Hibachi steak selection featured ribeye (two very enthusiastic thumbs up), and I ordered mine medium rare. I couldn’t decide between steak or chicken, so it was combo platter to the rescue. The steak was juicy and perfectly cooked. All of the entrées came with zucchini and onions, and the additional option of broccoli and mushrooms. I said yes to all four, and they were some of the most tender, well-cooked veggies I’ve had in a hibachi meal. Along with a choice of brown rice (often a rarity at fast-serve joints), I was pleased at what a nutritious entrée it turned out to be. Well, unless I count the cup of their homemade yum-yum (white) sauce that I plunged every bite into.
If anyone has ever been to a Teppanyaki-style restaurant and bowed out on the ramekins of white and dark ginger sauce, they’ve made a serious mistake. As long as these dunkers are done well, they make each bite twice as mouthwatering. Hibachi’s white sauce was luscious, without being overly decadent and mayo-packed, and the soy-ginger sauce was sweet, salty and light.
For entrée number two, I chose the sweet and spicy shrimp over noodles. The tempura-fried shrimp were generously sized and expertly cooked. Already in a sea of sauces, I wasn’t sure if there was a condiment prearranged for this dish. The shrimp were enormously flavorful on their own, but swirled in sweet and sour sauce—yum! I wasn’t a big fan of the pasta, as I felt it was more comparable to thin fettuccine as opposed to rice noodles. My fiancé, however, said when everything melded together on his plate, he thought the strands tasted divinely homemade. To each his own.
Homemade cheesecake seemed like an odd specialty at a quaint Asian bistro with a drive-thru window. Color me wrong. After being informed the dessert (handmade by the owner’s wife) was one of the signature scratch-made items at Hibachi, I couldn’t turn down a blueberry slice. The cake was velvety and spotted with big chewy blueberries, and the graham-cracker crust was crumbly and delicious. I went gaga for its silky-smooth filling.
Overall, Hibachi To Go hit a homerun.