In terms of the menu, it’s traditionally arranged, broken into Appetizers, Soup, Fried Rice, Fried Noodle, Lo Men, Soft Noodle, Egg Foo Young (Seafood, Chicken, Beef, Pork, and Vegetable under their respective headings). But aside from that, it demands a fair amount of consideration. For although there are many familiar names to be found, much of the menu consists of names that are new and perhaps even unique to Hibachi. So whether you want some more Americanized takes on classic Chinese dishes or really eclectic regional Chinese dishes, you will find them both in Hibachi.
For a great Chinese food experience, Hibachi’s Buffet could be a rare find. It sits at the corner of W College Ave and N Third St, adjacent to the Bond County Courthouse. Standing at the entrance, you might find that it doesn’t look like a Chinese restaurant. But besides the buffet, it does offer a menu that’s Pan-Asian, Chinese, even hyper-Chinese at the same time.
The Chinoiserie-themed interior design is coherent with Hibachi’s offerings: Chinese and American food. Lining the two sides of the restaurant is booth seating painted an auspicious shade of red. The lighting can impart an orange, almost reddish hue throughout the room. It is worth noting that the Chinese calligraphy painting stretched along the perimeters of the room near the ceiling gives the room a glamorous touch and adds a vintage feel to the space. The place is not noisy most of the time. But if you prefer an even more quiet space, there is also a room separated from the main area. Those eating here are not here because a fast order of dumplings is what they want. They’re here for an experience. And at Hibachi, they get it.
Surely a certain amount of time should be spent with the menu. If you try to work your own way through the many main dishes, you may get bogged down figuring out the best matches. Just be brave enough to try the more exotic-sounding dishes rather than sticking to “safe” choices. Also, there are some pre-set special combination platters for beginners, which certainly is the easiest way to go. But do ask for guidance from the staff who are very well trained and are able to guide people according to their tastes.
Sali, from Fuzhou, China’s Fujian Province, is the owner of Hibachi’s Buffet and has run Hibachi for 10 years. When she was a child in China, her family also ran a restaurant, and she helped her family with the restaurant since the age of 6. “So there was no specific difficulty running Hibachi because I had long since got used to it (restaurant business). Practice makes perfect,” said Sali. Even though local citizens do have different tastes than Chinese people, Sali thinks it is pretty easy for Chinese food to pander to American tastes. She said, “Americans love chicken meat, especially chicken breast. So chicken is highly featured in our menu.” Sali also makes a recommendation called Kung Po Chicken, a spicy stir-fried dish made with onion, chili peppers, and chicken cubes with no bone, or sliced Chicken thighs with a few bones. “Generally it’s not a popular dish, but those who tried once later order the dish very often.
Another point worthy of a special mention is that, except for Thanksgiving, Hibachi opens during all the other holidays as usual. Speaking of this, Sali laughed that on each New Year’s Eve they always have an extremely large number of orders for taking out. It seems like somehow it’s even becoming a tradition for local citizens to have Chinese meals for their New Year dinner. But dining in is also welcome, she added. So as we are close to the end of the year, if you have not yet tried to have a New Year’s Eve party at Hibachi, you might want to consider it.