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We don't know how it happened, but somewhere along the way hibachi grills got boring. Usually it's lots of show for not-so-great food — quantity, not so much quality. We know all the tricks. There's the eyebrow-curling grill-deglazing, the flaming onion volcano, the obligatory “egg roll” and the spatula-and-knife twirling that makes you wonder just what would happen if the chef were to lose his grip.
Samurai Japanese Steakhouse and Sushi Bar, in the Shackleford Crossing shopping center, gave us all the flying blades, but with better food. The interior is expansive, complete with a full bar, table seating, six hibachi tables and a calming atmosphere. There's a lot to choose from on the menu so we decided to try out the sake while we took our time to peruse the selection.
As far as hot sake goes, the $4 bottle of Shochikubai was perfect for two (a sweet cold sake is available as well).
Still undecided on the entrees, we decided to go for an appetizer of shumai, steamed dumplings that look like tiny packages of seafood and vegetables. They were smaller than we're used to, but packed with flavor (especially when dipped in the spicy mayo sauce they came huddled around), and for $4, we'd say well worth it.
The hibachi menu is pretty standard fare, with a nice array of steaks and combinations to choose from (chicken and shrimp, steak and salmon, shrimp and salmon, steak and chicken — you get the idea.). Lunch menu prices are reasonable (ranging from $6.95 for a vegetable dish to $10.95 for the filet mignon and accompanying soup, salad, fried rice, etc.). Dinner prices are moderate to high, although not much more than any other hibachi place we've been to.
Dinner entrees are massive, served with soup, salad, two shrimp (as an appetizer), grilled vegetables, steamed rice (fried rice will cost you $2.50 extra) and fruit (half of an orange served with a little orange-peel umbrella). The prices are fair for what you get — $13.95 for the teriyaki chicken all the way up to $26.50 for the lobster. Combination platters will cost you anywhere from $21.95 up to $26.50 for the filet and lobster.
Our chef was entertaining, but not in our faces the whole time. Once the food started coming it didn't stop. The soup was good and peppery, but the salad was a little bland (house dressing is good though). We ordered the steak and salmon combo ($22.95) to share with our companion. Be careful:
Sharing will cost you an extra $3, but that includes the extra soup and salad, which are always tough to divvy up when you're trying to make it on the cheap. The fried rice was light and fluffy, well-seasoned and not too oily. The steak was tasty and tender and the vegetables were better than we've had at other hibachi restaurants. We could take or leave the salmon, and the teriyaki chicken was, well, teriyaki chicken — good, but nothing special.
If the hibachi menu doesn't suit your palate, Samurai has a fair selection of sushi. The rolls were a little pricy, but our Dragon Roll (eel, crab and cucumber, rolled tightly with sticky rice, topped with avocado and roe) was among the best we've had locally. The sushi was made of nice cuts of fish and seafood (especially the eel and crab), but could have been served with a little more rice.
Samurai has a full bar and a decent selection of domestic and imported beers. The atmosphere is friendly, though hibachi tables are always kind of difficult to talk around. If everyone is seated in a line, it can make conversation a little difficult to manage, and the exhaust fans were a little loud at times.
The quality of the food, from the filet mignon (our companion's was delectable) to the side veggies was better than most Japanese places we've visited. Samurai's prices are on par with other hibachis in town, but if you're willing to drop $20-$30 per person for the full experience, you won't be let down.
Samurai Japanese Steakhouse
and Sushi Bar
Shackleford Crossing Shopping Center
2604 S. Shackleford Road
Don't like the side-show atmosphere of hibachi places? Don't worry. Samurai's got quiet, comfortable table-seating and a nice bar. Grab some chilled sake and edamame while you wait on friends or look over the menu. The shumai dumplings are an excellent warm-up to any entree. If you order a hibachi dinner, be prepared to pack up some leftovers.
Lunch 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday; dinner 5 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 4:30 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday.
Credit cards accepted, moderate to expensive prices, full bar.
Next try the soup. We've never had a bad one, and a fairly large container…