The selection at Hibachi Grill is mind-boggling — but choose wisely, and ye shall be rewarded 

Hot Masses

Hot Masses

There are times when a food craving is so specific that the car practically pilots itself to the restaurant, and there's no need to see the menu. Other times, the whole global banquet isn't enough to sate your voracious appetite. For those times, there's Hibachi Grill & Supreme Buffet.

Hibachi, which anchors a regular United Nations of retail at Nolensville Road and Elysian Fields, looks big from the outside, and it's even bigger inside. Think of a medium-size restaurant and double it, and you get some idea of what 299 seats looks like.

Quantity is the guiding principle in the food, too. There are nearly as many food items (about 250) as there are seats, offered up at 12 buffet tables. The odds of finding something you like are in your favor. The corollary, of course, is that the search may take a while.

Hibachi is open every day. At dinner (and all day Sunday) more seafood is prepared, and the hibachi and grill are fired up. Reaching these means navigating the expanse of dining room and the dizzying choices of food. You've likely never seen so much food — from haute to homey, from Caribbean to Japanese, from crawfish to meat pie to orange torte.

If there's such a thing as a "golden-brown" food group, it's the one best represented at Hibachi: Fried fish, hush puppies, french fries, fried chicken fingers, brown-and-serve rolls, fried doughnuts, churros and much more pay tribute to the power of flour, cornmeal and hot oil.

Cuisines from many cultures live peacefully side by side at Hibachi. Your plate is likely to be a hodgepodge of General Tso's chicken, octopus salad, flan, sautéed mushrooms, Japanese pickled cucumbers, brisket, mac-and-cheese and French-style seafood bake (which is actually very good). It'd be nice if foods were organized by culture, so that it would be simple to assemble, for example, a Caribbean plate of coconut shrimp (though that dish was too sweet), plantains, bananas with strawberry sauce, and tapioca pudding.

One tried-and-true approach to dining at Hibachi: Just eat shrimp. It's not unusual to see customers with shrimp-only plates — boiled, sauteed, fried, stuffed, stir-fried, salt-and-pepper, you name it.

You can't miss the sushi table, as it's the largest in the place. True to the Hibachi code, the sushi's plentiful, if not premium. Most of it is cooked, some is deep-fried. If you consider sushi to be mainly a delivery vehicle for wasabi and pickled ginger, it gets the job done. Otherwise, proceed with caution.

Dessert occupies three tables plus a jaunty scoop-your-own ice cream trolley, well stocked with ho-hum ice cream. Seven or eight flashy cakes (not made in-house) are sliced and waiting to leap on your sweet tooth, if you let them. Experiment with that weird-looking but texturally interesting Asian gelatin or just stick with sliced fruit or banana pudding, which appears on Asian buffets in Nashville with such regularity that it barely merits a raised eyebrow.

A lot of the food is Sysco-licious, which seemed of little concern to the many children filling plates with steak fries, pizza and chicken fingers. Adults will want to pick more carefully, avoiding the fried-brown foods, cold mussels without sauce, unremarkable seafood soup, frozen Chinese stir-fry entrées and iceberg salad with an odd selection of unappealing dressings.

Here's a short list of reasonably good foods on which our dining companions could agree: boiled crawfish, octopus salad, thinly-sliced marinated cucumbers, field greens, pork roast, seafood casserole, meat pie (yes, really) and roast beef, mislabeled "prime rib."

Observant diners may eventually realize the place is called Hibachi Grill and begin to look around for signs of the titular equipment. Bypass the 12 hot and cold tables, the ice cream trolley and the sushi corner, and you'll find the grill and griddle against the back wall. Only the pluckiest diners stray back this far. The rest either don't know where to look, or just aren't interested.

Our recommendation: Make this area your top priority.

On the right, grilled meats are pulled from commercial-size grates and plumped onto hot trays. Get one of the thin-cut pork steaks, grilled fast and hot, resulting in charred edges and juicy meat — these are a prize, and get snapped up quickly. The red-tinted, mojo-marinated grilled chicken is more plentiful. The pieces (usually boneless thighs) are cooked a couple dozen at a time on the big grill, turned individually until just done but still moist, like you would at home. But here, no one will glare at you for eating three or four of them.

To the grill's left is the searing hibachi griddle, where a deft cook turns your choice of ingredients into a sizzling stir-fry. You load a plate with pork, chicken, beef, shrimp, sprouts, onions, baby corn, rice, noodles, fresh egg — whatever you choose. The cook upends it onto a grill, douses it with as much chili and garlic as you like, moves it strategically over the blistering metal, then hands you back a hot, fresh custom meal.

Both the hibachi and the grill are included in the $10 weekend tab. Considering the price, quantity and variety, not to mention the rich pageant of humanity, Hibachi Grill is worth a visit for bargain hunters with a sense of adventure.

Email arts@nashvillescene.com.

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