By Cathy Wharton
For Hometown News
Enter the double doors of Hibachi Grill and you've entered a world of exemplary buffet dining.
If you haven't experienced this place, don't be surprised if you hear yourself say "wow," even before you settle in. It's that impressive. Also noticeable is there are no gumball machines or a huge menu to read -- just lots of good food at one low price.
Owner Sheng Liu has been in the restaurant business for more than 12 years, starting with a buffet in Deland. He then moved to Daytona Beach where, two months ago, he opened Hibachi Grill in Kmart Plaza on West International Speedway Boulevard, the restaurant is celebrating its grand opening.
"This is much bigger than the previous one," Mr. Liu said. "I like the beachside, and this is a very convenient location."
It is close to colleges, medical offices and shopping centers. It also draws customers from passersby, including families. "We focus on families," Mr. Liu said.
My own experience at Hibachi started on a mid-week afternoon between 1 and 1:30. I wasn't sure what to expect, but my first impression was the restaurant's size. The two large dining areas on either side are flanked by the reason for being there -- the fabulous food.
After a brief tour by Mr. Liu, I chose a comfortable seat near the center of action -- the food stations. Once settled, I began soaking in the ambiance. The dining areas combined seat 400 people. There's also a private dining room that can seat up to 60 people. The central section of the restaurant consists of eight buffet stations that offer everything from soup to nuts; plus a humongous salad/fruit bar. The stations include an array of vegetables, seafood, chicken, beef, potatoes and rice, all prepared with enough variety to satisfy most anyone. There also are two dessert stations. The restaurant offers wine and beer; and chopsticks for the more experienced (or adventurous) Asian-style diner.
Another important feature of the restaurant is the wide aisles in between the food stations, which allow ample space for customers to move about without being crowded.
Also impressive is the decorative Asian theme that plays throughout the interior -- from the lantern-style lighting above the booths to the two large servers' stations, both of which are hidden from view by attractive curtains and stained glass-looking partitions that depict Japanese culture.
Along the back wall are three additional stations: A sushi bar, with an array of different choices; a steak grill, where customers can order top sirloin steak prepared to their liking; and the hibachi -- the restaurant's claim to fame.
The hibachi station features a variety of raw vegetables, such as snow peas, cabbage, carrots, onions, peppers, broccoli, squash and zucchini; plus pre-cooked rice and noodles, and eggs, chicken and beef. The Hibachi system is self-serve, whereby customers fill their plates with the type and amount of vegetables they want, then hand the plate to the chef, who in turn adds other items, per the customers' choice. The hibachi itself is large enough to accommodate several orders at a time, so customers can watch as their hand picked selection is quickly and expertly prepared.
Now, where to begin: The buffet, the sushi bar, the steak grill or the hibachi? Or all of the above? Not an easy decision. I decided to start with a buffet salad -- fresh mixed greens, blue cheese crumbles and sunflower seeds. Though I could have gone for more, I wanted to leave room for other delights. After all, there was plenty more to choose.
Next was a plate of veggies -- broccoli, carrots, cauliflower and green beans, all of it fresh and delicious. I then sampled some egg foo yong, bourbon chicken, sweet and sour chicken, and a seafood dish with crab, shrimp, zucchini and peppers. But that's not all. There was a smidgeon of room left for a half cup of miso soup, plus a (very small) selection of veggies from the hibachi grill, which in itself is an entertaining experience. By then, my stomach was registering full.
I finished my lunch with a crunchy fortune cookie with a message inside which read, "Live in this moment." And that I did!
Prices are $6.49 for lunch (served 11 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.) and $8.99 for dinner (served 3:30 p.m. to 10 p.m.). "We are proud to serve the finest quality food at affordable prices," Mr. Liu said.
Hibachi Grill is at 1320 W. International Speedway Blvd. Hours: 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., Monday - Saturday; 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., Sunday -- dinner only. Phone: (386) 323-1993.