Restaurant Review: GENJIGO
Hibachi restaurants are time-honored destinations for big celebrations. That’s because they offer more than the food: There’s a show, too. Plus, hibachi joints provide diners with a high level of culinary control – guests choose their own ingredients, in terms of meat, vegetable and sauce combos. Typically, the house chef cooks things right in front of you at a table-grill (this transparency makes it good for paranoid clean freaks, too). All this, and and the food’s not 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 this performance, and the resulting food product is generally tasty. That’s nice, too.
So, if you like the hibachi food, but don’t need a particular show, GENJIGO is the spot for you. There is no show at GENJIGO, not even a teeny show. First, because there are no tables with built-in grills. You might catch a glimpse of the kitchen team working though the kitchen entrance behind the counter, but no one there is is throwing food. Or juggling.
And while you’re not getting a big show, you’re also not paying for a big show. GENJIGO offers hibachi foods at a price-point that allows you to eat it on a daily basis.
The menu is characteristically streamlined. Diners pick a meat (steak, shrimp, chicken, tofu), a set of vegetables (zucchini, onion, mushrooms, sprouts), and rice style (fried or regular) and the kitchen will whip up a combo with those components.
There are lots of ways to judge a joint. Given the meat options, steak ($16) is going to be the clear starting place for judgement. That’s because steak always tells the story. If it’s mushy and flat, or chemically-tasting, then it’s cheap meat that’s been tenderized to death. In GENJIGO’s case, the steak is cut into little 3D cubes, lean, but still tender, and with a savory grilled accent: It’s good quality.
Moving on to the easier items, like chicken ($12). It’s got fresh-grilled flavor. Even the house shrimp ($14) is reasonably firm.
In terms of vegetables, it just makes sense to go with all of them (barring some sort of personal aversion). As delivered, the combos yield soft-cooked, chopped onions, sautéed zucchini wedges, earthy grilled sprouts (in good supply) and thinly-sliced mushrooms. Together with the meat, the variety keeps things interesting.
The hibachi combos are built on your choice of pleasantly sticky regular rice, or a likable soy-sauce infused fried one with wisps of grated carrot and clumps of egg. Sauce-wise, 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 spike, and a good balance of savory notes. For whatever reason, the Yum Yum was more reminiscent of unsweet Thousand Island Dressing, and so it went unused.
Outside the hibachi offerings, you can score a little salad on the side. It’s unremarkable, but it’s also $2: No complaints about a $2 salad.
So, for 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. Its Gahanna and new Downtown location are temporarily closed.
For more information, visit genjigo.com.
All photos by Susan Post