Hibachi restaurants are age-old destinations for big celebrations. That’s because they offer more than food: there’s also a show. Additionally, hibachi joints offer diners a high level of culinary control – diners choose their own ingredients, in terms of meat, vegetable and sauce combinations. Typically, the house chef cooks things right in front of you on a tabletop grill (that transparency also makes it good for paranoid neat freaks). All of this, and the food isn’t just cooked; knives are twirled, vegetables are chopped with speed and drama, and objects and food are thrown into the air, or sometimes directly at diners.
All of this performance, and the resulting food product is usually tasty. It’s good too.
So if you like hibachi food, but don’t need a special show, GENJIGO is the place for you. There is no show at GENJIGO, not even a tiny show. First because there are no tables with built-in grills. You might spot the kitchen crew working through the kitchen entrance behind the counter, but no one is throwing food away. Or juggling.
And even if you don’t get a great show, you don’t pay for a great show either. GENJIGO offers hibachi foods at a price that allows you to eat them every day.
The menu is typically simplified. Diners choose a meat (steak, shrimp, chicken, tofu), a set of vegetables (zucchini, onions, mushrooms, sprouts) and a style of rice (fried or regular) and the kitchen will prepare a combo with these components.
There are many ways to judge a joint. Considering the meat options, steak ($16) will be the clear starting point for judgment. That’s because the steak always tells the story. If it’s mushy and flat, or chemical tasting, then it’s cheap meat that’s been tenderized to death. In the case of GENJIGO, the steak is cut into small 3D cubes, lean, but still tender, and with a tasty grilled accent: it’s good quality.
Let’s move on to the easier stuff, like chicken ($12). It has a freshly grilled flavor. even the house shrimp ($14) is reasonably firm.
In terms of vegetables, it makes sense to go with all of them (barring some sort of personal dislike). As delivered, the combos yield cooked and chopped onions, sautéed zucchini wedges, earthy grilled sprouts (plenty of them), and sliced mushrooms. With meat, variety makes things interesting.
Hibachi combos are built on your choice of pleasantly sticky plain rice, or soy sauce-infused fried rice with shredded carrot chunks and egg tufts. As for the sauce, we expected to like the Yum Yum better than the Ginger, but that expectation was wrong. Ginger is superior, with a light touch on the namesake tip and a good balance of salty notes. For some reason, the Yum Yum was more reminiscent of unsweetened Thousand Island dressing, and so it was not used.
Apart from the hibachi offerings, you can score a small salad on the side. It’s banal, but it’s also $2: Nothing wrong with a $2 salad.
So for the counter-casual hibachi, GENJIGO has the goods. It has five locations in central Ohio to get your fix: Reynoldsburg, Pickerington, Lewis Center, Grove City, and Westerville. Sa Gahanna and its new downtown location are temporarily closed.
For more information, visit genjigo.com.
All photos by Susan Post