I am fortunate to have this very cool gig where I go out to eat, write about it, get paid—and repeat it. When people learn that I am a food-reviewer, I generally get the same reaction: "Wow, that is the coolest job ever!" Most times, I would have to agree.
Here at the Weekly, we do our best to abide by standards when we review restaurants—we wait until they've been open a minimum of three months; we always try to go twice to make sure that one bad experience wasn't just a rough day; and we try to be fair and objective. But we're all human, and sometimes, after visit No. 1 to a restaurant, I can't help but face the second visit with some amount of dread.
I have to admit: I wasn't too keen on visiting Hibachi Super Buffet even the first time. I am not a big fan of buffets, and one that touts multi-regional cuisine, including Chinese, Japanese, Italian, Mexican and American, sounded a bit like a horror show.
Fortunately, it wasn't that bad. But still, the best thing I can say is that you get what you pay for; there's a large selection; and the beer is cheap and cold. There are 11 buffet lines, each featuring from six to 10 dishes; a hibachi grill, where patrons pick out a mixture of raw meats, vegetables and noodles, which are then grilled to order; a sushi station; and a scoop-your-own ice cream bar.
The restaurant is huge, with the capacity to seat probably 400 or so, if you include the special-event space. It's clean and bright, and adorned with large crystal chandeliers, neon lights and a big fountain. There also are several TVs, and white marble tables with ample seating make up the rest of the space. The service is prompt and, for the most part, friendly.
Lunch is $6.99 per person, and dinner and all weekend meals are $9.99; kids 10 and younger get a discount. Beers are cheap—on both visits, I opted for the Tsing Tao at $2.99 a bottle. Kirin Ichiban, Corona and Heineken also are available, and for $2.49, you can get Coors Light, Budweiser or Bud Light. Wine is $3.99 a glass or $17.99 a bottle, and sake ranges from $2.49 to $5.99.
The buffet selection is massive. Stick with the traditional Americanized Chinese selections, and—for the price—you shouldn't be disappointed. Anything deep-fried is also a pretty safe bet. If you play it smart, you can get quite the bang for your buck. Steamed crawfish, mussels, clams and peel-and-eat shrimp are plentiful and pretty tasty. The bacon-wrapped shrimp wasn't bad, but wasn't great.
Beef and broccoli, sesame chicken, orange chicken, lo mein and fried rice were fairly standard for inexpensive Chinese fare, though the sauces were extra viscous, and the food had a distinct ... shininess to it. The salt-and-pepper crab (salt-and-pepper shrimp were available on the subsequent visit) was whole and deep-fried, shell and all, in a light batter. They were pretty darn tasty.
The hibachi grill station was probably the highlight of both visits. Patrons can select their own mix of raw meats, seafood, vegetables and noodles, and it's freshly grilled to order. The desserts were also pretty tasty, with many choices, including cakes, mousses, puddings, custards, cream puffs and other various pastries, as well as fresh fruit and that buffet staple, Jell-O. The sushi was a bit ominous-looking—I'm not sure the turnover rate is especially high, and room-temperature-or-warmer sushi is always a bit disconcerting.
All in all, despite feeling that I ingested about 300 times the recommended daily amount of sodium, the buffet was a fair value for the price. If you're looking for a cheap meal with lots of choices, or you're feeding a large family, Hibachi Super Buffet would be a reasonable option to consider.
Just stay away from the tacos. Seriously.