Has anyone not been to a hibachi restaurant by now? You know, a room full of large open grills each with a surrounding counter table and seats for eight to 12. The chef in his whites and high toque comes out smashing his spatulas together and putting on a show of rapid-fire cutting and cooking three feet in front of you.
If you haven’t, it is worth the fun, plus you will get a whole lot of tasty Asian style meat, seafood, and vegetables directly from the cooking surface to your plate instantaneously.
One of our favorite hibachi restaurants is OOKA, of which there are three in the area: Willow Grove, Montgomeryville and Doylestown.
Setting: OOKA in Willow Grove has a dining room with four hibachi grills, each seating eight. There is also a separate larger Japanese food dining room and sushi bar. This OOKA is located at the intersection of Route 611 and Fitzwatertown Road.
Food: From the hibachi dinner menu you select from a variety of full four-course dinners, all starting with a clear chicken broth soup (or miso, on request), salad with ginger dressing, steamed white or fried rice, a few grilled shrimp, and soba noodles sauced and warmed on the grill.
While scarfing these my lovely dining companion and I sipped the chilled sake we had brought – it’s BYOB - and watched our group’s hibachi chef skillfully prepare our main dishes with a flourish.
Among the possible main course seafood choices are salmon, sea bass, shrimp, scallops, calamari and lobster. There are chicken, strip steak and filet mignon, for meat eaters and mix-and-match combinations for the unaffiliated.
OOKA also offers a large selection of other Japanese cuisine favorites, e.g., teriyaki, negamaki, and yakitori.
Taste: A few of those seated at our community table also had ordered from the sushi and sashimi menu a maki roll, as we did, as an additional appetizer, which was quickly brought in from the sushi bar. Our favorite, salmon and avocado roll, was first-rate.
This food is verifiably fresh and, in the main, quite tasty. My only complaint was that the chicken on my chicken and scallops combo became too chewy and dry from too much time on the griddle.
On a very recent repeat visit, I chose the filet mignon and scallops hibachi dinner ($26.95), while my son picked the filet and shrimp combo ($25.95). The hibachi chef cooked the steak perfectly to our liking after asking our desired degree on doneness. The cubes of meat were tender, moist, and delicious, as were the shrimp and scallops.
Service: At OOKA, there was prompt, courteous, and thoroughly purposeful service by the black-clad young female servers.
Parking: Off-street, steeply inclined parking lot. Just remember to put the car in park and set the emergency brake.
Location: 1109 Easton Road, Willow Grove
Hours: Lunch until 3 p.m. and Dinner beginning at 4:30 pm daily.
Hibachi dinner prices: $14.95 (vegetables) - $33.95 (lobster)
Ambiance: Casual, with spare clean décor typical of Asian eaterys
Reservations: Suggested on weekends.
Credit cards: All major accepted
Alcoholic Bevs: BYOB
Special features: Complete hibachi dinners cooked right in front of you.
Overall rating: mmmm (out of 5 m’s) for an unusual, entertaining, and tasty dining experience.
To contact Mitch Davis, you can e-mail him.