We have to admit, we don’t get out for Hibachi very often. Ok, very often is an understatement . . . we’ve actually only ever been once before in our entire lives, just a few years ago. Sure, it can be kitschy, but with the right group of people and a fun, talented Hibachi chef, a little kitsch can be a whole lotta fun! I mean where else can you see a knife and fire show, get food thrown at you, and have alcohol poured directly in your mouth without getting kicked out? And while you’re not going to get a fancy gourmet meal served in tiny portions on exquisite plates, you sure can get yourself some tasty, traditional Asian favorites that fill your belly for hours to come! So it was for these reasons we were excited to take Hana Tokyo up on their offer to enjoy their Hibachi experience with a couple of friends of ours.
When we arrived, we headed on over to the bar for some drinks and starters.
We kicked things off with a traditional (addicting) starter, Edamame. This was served warm at just the right crispness with a nice amount of salt on the outside. Who doesn’t love to snack on these bad boys?
Next up was the Baby Bok Choy. These stir fried gems were nicely cooked with that slightly bitter, seaweed-y taste you look for with a nice undertone of garlic.
We then moved onto the Rock Shrimp, which was mixed in with a nice creamy chili sauce that had a slight sweet and sour kick. The shrimp was cooked perfectly, making this an overall tasty dish.
As we snacked away, our friend Kevin (AKA Carp) started the night off with some nice cold sake. They have some good, affordable choices, and different styles depending on what you’d like. We tried several different types and enjoyed most of them. Dan wanted a cocktail, but it was a bit tough to order because the usual bartender wasn’t working that night. So, he struggled a bit trying to figure out what to order because there wasn’t a description of what was inside. One of the drinks he decided to try was the Tropical Ice Tea which tasted much like a glass of fruit punch with some liquor mixed in. The drink was so, so, because it was just too sweet and had too many things going on. The rest of the cocktails that night, like the flaming Scorpion Bowl (big enough for two) were on par with this one and didn’t impress us. Put it this way, tasting a few sips of Dan’s cocktails was enough for Kristien to stick with wine.
Soon they came out with the mother of all starters, which was actually more like an entire meal: The Love Boat. Like a good Love Boat should, this had almost every kind of seafood that you can imagine, slightly modified by the owner Alan Wu. There was sushi and sashimi like Toro, white tuna, regular tuna, and salmon, as well as two of their most popular rolls. The first was the Hana Tokyo which included tuna, kani, avocado, and spicy tuna. It was fresh, full of flavor, and had a nice contrast with smooth, silky, and crunchy. We also had a special creation from the sushi chef: salmon, spicy tuna, crab, and seaweed salad. Dan loved the brininess from the seaweed and thought it added a nice burst of flavor, but Kristien thought it was a bit too much. Overall, though, the fish smelled and tasted clean and fresh. We happily put away the entire boat like champs!
As you can imagine, we were already getting pretty full, so we were a bit anxious when we thought about switching over to the hibachi in a few minutes. How much food would it be? Would we be able to handle it?
They started us off with a simple, clear broth mushroom soup that had a warm, toasty onion taste at the base. Helping us to digest a bit, we also had the salad which featured a Thai ginger dressing that was bright and refreshing . . . a good prelude to the heavier items on the way.
Speaking of, our chef spun some eggs, flung them in the air, and split them right in half letting the inside spill onto some rice with veggies that he’d been preparing. While all this was going down, you know that Dan and Carp were doing dueling sake shots. It’s hard to say who drank more, but with sake dripping down their chins onto their shirts, who really cares?! During all the fun and excitement, our chef was cooking up some sirloin, shrimp, and lobster, which we had selected. You can pick your own meat combos at various costs if that combo isn’t your thing. The beef was beautifully cooked, had some nice char on it, yet still had that moist juiciness to it. Unfortunately, the shrimp was a bit over-cooked making it slightly chewy. Given that, we were understandably unsure about how the lobster would come out (there’s almost nothing as bad as overcooked lobster). We’re very happy to say, though, that the lobster was cooked nicely. Overall, everything had a nice flavor to . . . though you’d expect that when the chef uses a ton of butter to cook everything in (yuuuuummmm).
And, just when we thought we were done, our hosts insisted that we try some dessert. This is always a tough part of the meal because you don’t want to be rude and not honor your host’s hospitality, but you also have this thing called a stomach that can only hold so much food. Well, we could have picked the Tempura Ice Cream, the Fried Cheesecake, or the Japanese Ice Cream, so we decided to go with the Ice Cream because it seemed lightest. They came out with little bowls of Red Bean, Mango, and Green Tea ice creams which each were flavorful and rich. We’d recommend the Red Bean if you want more of an unusual, exotic, richer taste, the Mango if you want more of a bright, clean flavor, and the Green Tea if you want a very light, creamy, and gently spiced flavor. Kristien is a huge Green Tea ice cream fan and really enjoyed this one.
As we were finishing up dessert we tried some of their sweeter dessert sakes like the Asian Pear and the Hana Puka, which is sparkling peach. Before we took our first tastes, Alan Wu came by and taught us to say Kambei as we toast. Needless to say, we said Kambei to each other for the rest of the time that we were there and the rest of the night as we ventured out to Local Fairfield for an epic night of beer drinking with Fuzzy Baby Ducks, Bourbon County Stout, and more.
While we were hoping to have better cocktails, we didn’t exactly go there expecting the types of craft cocktails (or killer food) you get at a place like Kawa Ni. The food at Hana Tokyo, if taken for what it is (traditional Asian Hibachi fare), was good. The hibachi chefs here are fun, there are plenty of tables to go around whether you’re having a party, out with friends, or if it’s date night, and you can most definitely eat your money’s worth. So, if you’re looking for that type of experience, we feel like Hana Tokyo is a solid option.