If you have always been curious about Japanese food, but were startled by the prices at a big restaurant or intimidated by the raw fish in sushi, then Hibachi Express might be just what you are looking for. This is a small, regional chain of Japanese fast food restaurants with five locations in Georgia. If you are lucky enough to live near to one of their locations, Hibachi Express offers a way to try Japanese food at a reasonable price with fast service. And all of the seafood is thoroughly cooked!
A little history: where does the term “hibachi” come from? Hibachi Express is directly in line with the terminology that we use in the United States when referring to this style of Japanese cooking. They have a giant, iron grill and the food is prepared by sautéeing it on this massive hot plate. However, the name is actually an old misunderstanding.
In Japanese, the term hibachi refers to a bowl. These bowls have been around in Japan for centuries. There are written records of them from as early as the 8thcentury! Hibachi were traditionally made of wood, usually cypress wood, then lined with clay, to protect the wood from burning. A layer of ash is spread across the bottom of the bowl, then hot charcoals are set on top of the ash. These charcoal-filled bowls were used for heating purposes, rather than for cooking. At first, hibachis were used exclusively by the upper classes, like aristocrats and samurais. As the centuries went by, the craftsmen who made hibachis learned about how to work metal and became increasingly creative and artistic in their designs. They would add metal decorations, sometimes they would even decorate the hibachis with a layer of gold leaf to make them really fancy. While the hibachi for the wealthy were getting increasingly decorative, plain hibachis were becoming more popular and common among the general population, and by the 20thcentury, you could find hibachis heating rooms and buildings all over Japan. They were not only used by private citizens, but by businesses as well. Up until the 1940’s, hibachis were used to heat lobbies and train stations, just to name a few examples. During World War II, Japanese soldiers developed several creative ways to use hibachi while they were traveling with the armed forces. There are records of Japanese soldiers using hibachis as cigarette lights or as small, portable stoves. Sadly, this Japanese tradition disappeared after World War II with the invention of oil heaters. The hibachis were replaced by the new technology and are now mostly found in museums. However, you can sometimes still see hibachi being used in traditional settings, they can be featured in Japanese tea ceremonies and certain outdoor festivals.
So why would a restaurant like Hibachi Express be named after an old-fashioned space heater? Historians believe that it was either a misunderstanding or that a Japanese word was mistranslated. Hibachi Restaurants in the United States tend to use the big, hot, iron plate, just like the one used at Hibachi Express. In Japanese, this hot plate is called a teppan. There is also a type of small, charcoal cooking stove that is called a shichirin. It is believed that some Japanese cooks wanted to introduce shichirin cooking to the United States, but thought it would be too difficult for native English speakers to say and spell, so they used the word hibachi instead, since the two items look similar. After that, teppan cooking was lumped together with hibachi cooking, and now they are synonymous in the United States. So, technically, Hibachi Express, and many other hibachi restaurants in the United States, actually cook using a teppan, not a hibachi.
Take a look at the Hibachi Express menu
They offer a range of appetizers, main courses, desserts and a selection of party platters.
Hibachi Express as a small selection of appetizers, ranging in price from $1.50-$5.99. These include some traditional foods, like egg rolls, and dumplings, as well as some less traditional foods like chicken wings.
Soups, Salads, Sandwiches
They have a soup of the day for $1.99. They also have salads and a ginger wrap sandwich $3.99 to $6.99. These are reasonably priced and generously sized, so they would make a good lunch option or a good dinner option for somebody looking for something a bit lighter.
There are generally two options for main dishes: the section they call the main menu, and the selection of Teriyaki Rice Bowls. The main dishes include half and full orders of hibachi. You can choose between vegetable and rice, chicken, steak, shrimp, grouper or scallop hibachi. The prices range from $3.50 to $9.99, depending on which hibachi you order and whether you get a full or half order. They also have combo meals, if you have a larger appetite. These are the Land Lover Combo, the Seafood Combo, and the Surf and Turf Combo. These combo dishes only come as full orders and the cost ranges from $8.99 to $10.99. The Teriyaki Rice Bowls all come with fried rice and teriyaki sauce, then you get to choose your filling: chicken, steak, shrimp or simply rice and vegetables. From $3.99 to $5.99 each, these are a real bargain. There is also a kids menu that offers options that are definitely not authentic Japanese food, but are certainly popular kid favorites. These are $3.99 and include chicken tenders, fried shrimp and corn dogs, all served with french fries.
Hibachi Express also has a menu of party platters, so that you will be able to self-cater an event or have a meal with a larger group at a Hibachi Express location. They offer a full range of their hibachi dishes as well as fried rice and chicken wings. These are reasonably priced, starting at only $10.99 for a half tray, meaning hosting a large group would not make a huge dent in your budget.
To find the location nearest you, visit their website at www.thehibachiexpress.com.