Dinner is a sensory experience.
Taste is at the top of the list, but a truly great dinner encompasses all five senses: taste, sight, smell, touch and sound.
No dining experience can touch all five quite the way a hibachi can.
Wyomissing’s Tokyo Hibachi & Bar offers diners an experience that is just not available at most restaurants. Three circular seating areas with six hibachi grills are set up in what was originally a Denny’s along Woodland Road.
Tokyo Hibachi arrived in 2008, offering not only the tableside cooking show, but a large menu featuring nearly 50 different types of sushi as well as Chinese chicken and beef dinners.
But we were only interested in the hibachi.
Things started off slow at our table as we had to wait for more groups to fill around the table. Five must have been the magic number because after three more people trickled in, the waitress took our orders.
While we waited for the chef to emerge, our server brought out house salads for everyone. The simple salad consisted of a bowl of lettuce and one cherry tomato topped in the house dressing, a creamy Thousand Island-like sauce with a strong taste of citrus and just the slightest sour note from the vinegar. It was very good, and I was more than happy to have something to hold us over until our chef emerged from the kitchen with a cart full of food and equipment.
Hibachi grilling is part dinner, part show. And the show began with quite a flash.
Following a display of Ninja-like moves with the spatula, the chef oiled up the hibachi and set it ablaze. The eggs, which were to be chopped and toss with the fried rice, were the first to hit the grill, after a bit of juggling on the spatula. Then came a pile of rice, enough for all five of us at the table.
After throwing on the vegetables, it was time to play catch. Everyone at the table took turns trying to catch a piece of broccoli that was flipped to us off the grill. I failed (twice), taking one sprout off my chest and another in the face. Julie didn’t fare any better, but two of our tablemates caught there’s in one shot. Being first and second in line, I’m going to say the chef’s accuracy got better as he went along.
Items were dished out one at a time as they were finished so our plates gradually filled, giving me a chance to taste everything hot off the grill.
First came the fried rice. It was, hands down, the best fried rice I have ever tried. From the fresh cooked egg to the nicely browned rice, everything was perfect. If I didn’t have that salad to hold me over, the rice would have been gone before anything else hit my plate.
With every hibachi dinner, you get a two-piece “shrimp sampler.” I’m not a big seafood fan, but I gave them a try, and I have to admit that they weren’t bad. And seeing them transformed from the raw, gray blobs into the nice pink pinwheels was pretty impressive.
The final pieces to the puzzle were my NY strip steak and mixed vegetables (thankfully no game of catch was involved for these). The steak was nicely caramelized from the oil and sauces that it was cooked in. It was just a little greasy, but the strong flavors made up for it.
Julie decided to go a different route for her meal, opting for a side of noodles instead of rice for her shrimp. Everything on the plate really absorbed the soy sauce, but somehow the sauce did not overpower it.
Everyone at the table also gets two dipping sauces: mustard and ginger. The mustard was a little more complex that your store-bought brand; it reminded me a little of a Carolina barbecue sauce, but not as sweet. The ginger sauce was my favorite, though. The namesake spice was very strong and I thought it went perfectly with the steak.
With the hibachi dinner, you are paying a premium for the experience, but at $44 for the two of us, it was still a good deal considering the sheer amount of food (and entertainment) we received.
We could have gone to the restaurant and sat at a booth and had the exact same food. But I know it wouldn’t have been the same.
Instead of having plates of food delivered to us, we got to watch our dinner crafted from scratch, feel the heat of the hibachi (and the broccoli hitting my face), hear the sizzle of the grill and smell the aromas of everything that was prepared.
The fact that the food was outstanding made it all the more enjoyable.