Late in 2015, a new restaurant appeared on the scene that was quite…different.
Located in a former fast food restaurant along the Fifth Street Highway – directly across the street from Jumbo China Buffet – Haiku Hibachi & Sushi brought something completely new to Berks County: drive-thru hibachi.
A drive-thru hibachi is certainly a unique concept, a one-of-a-kind experience in our region, if not beyond.
There is a dining room at Haiku, but it’s the window — a leftover from the Taco Bell that once occupied the space — that sets this apart from Berks County’s many Asian inspired restaurants.
Anyone who wants to take advantage of the drive-thru service has two options: order in line or place it ahead of time and use the window for pick-up. We decided to use the online ordering system to place our order.
It’s a very convenient system. The entire menu is available and customizable. For example, if you order steak, you can choose how you want it prepared. You can choose the type of roll for your sushi. You can ask to hold the onions (though why anyone would do that, I have no idea).
At the end of the process, it asks for your payment method. Haiku doesn’t accept online payments. The options are cash and credit upon pick-up or a phone call for a credit card. This saves the customer money because there’s no commission or online processing fees tacked on to the bill.
Once finished, a message flashed on the screen saying my order would be ready in 15 minutes.
Then I was given the option to boast on Facebook about placing my order.
I drove from my home base in Wyomissing to the restaurant along the Fifth Street Highway with no problem getting there before the 15 minutes were up.
My biggest problem was finding the entrance to the drive-thru lane. In an inherited design quirk, the drive-thru lane is surrounded by curbs on either side so it’s completely inaccessible from the dine-in parking.
I pulled up to the microphone and menu board, told them my name and that I was here to pick up an order and was ushered around to the window where I had just a short wait while the car in front of me, who obviously had not ordered ahead, sat idling while the driver’s food was prepared.
After getting my order, I brought it home and opened up the to-go bags. I have to give it to Haiku because the presentation was outstanding.
Our hibachi dinners were compartmentalized. For mine, my chicken, fried rice and vegetables were all separated. There was nothing to do but dump everything onto one plate and dug in.
It was delicious. This was not fast food, this was a real hibachi-cooked dinner. The sauce for the chicken was thick, sweet and salty. The rice was done perfectly. And the vegetables were a beautiful al dente.
It all worked. I couldn’t believe that this came from a drive-thru window.
Julie took full advantage of the order customization for her dinner, choosing steak (and opting for well-done) and an upgrade from rice to noodles.
It was the same delicious sauce, this time with perfectly cooked steak meat. The noodles were nicely done as well for a complete, enjoyable meal.
But Haiku doesn’t stop with hibachi. As the name suggests, there’s also sushi.
Neither Julie nor I are willing to take the plunge into raw sushi, but there are plenty of cooked sushi rolls to enjoy from haiku. We ordered two: shrimp tempura rolls and sweet potato rolls (don’t judge me, I’m still very much Pennsylvania Dutch).
Both were fantastic. At Haiku, all of the sushi is rolled to order so all of the flavors are fresh and vibrant. The rice-covered slices were the perfect size for an appetizer or side dish and we had no problem finishing off all 11 of them.
One of the great things about Haiku’s concept is the price. By skipping the tableside hibachi presentation (once you’ve seen one, you’ve seen them all) and focusing strictly on food, the price comes down dramatically. Our total dinner cost came in at about $25.
By comparison, our meal at Tokyo Hibachi two years ago cost $44.
There’s room in Berks County for both concepts, but for this frugal eater, give me the convenience, value and quality of Haiku Hibachi & Sushi.
Food: Very Good
Price: Very Reasonable
Haiku Hibachi & Sushi
3215 N. 5th Street Highway
Reading, PA 19605