Monday, August 11, 2014

Hibachi Buffet

331 North Creek Drive
Festus, Mo

My daughter, Leslye,  was in town, along with her brood of three, Ashton 15, Caprice, 12 and Kinley, 2.
I saw my daughter last a year ago, she flew in for my father's funeral. The kids though, I hadn't seen in several years. We'd tried, we'd planned, but one thing after another, life, reality, just  kept it form happening. Seattle's  a long and expensive trek, no matter how you do it.
Rather than try to figure out in advance what groceries to have on hand and what meals to plan for kids of that age range, we decided that we'd keep small meal and snack stuff at the house and have our dinners out. That way they could figure it out for themselves.
And what better place for diverse choices than a Chinese Buffet?
The Place:
The Hibachi buffet in Festus just opened
a few months back. We went shortly after it opened and it fared pretty well. So this would work as a followup, a review now that the place has had time to settle into its stride.
There's been a bit of Hibachi-hate in the local internet discussions, I found little of actual substance or detail in those remarks, but kept my nose up just in case.
Word had spread that the Springfield, Mo. Hibachi, not owned or operated by the same people though similar in almost every way, had been shut down for a few days by that city's health inspectors.
It happens. Back when I lived in Sprangburg my favorite Chinese places occasionally got shut down, not really that big of a deal. The inspectors find something, wrong, they close for a few days, fix the problem, then open back up. This sort of thing, especially considering the often relatively minor infractions, should not alarm any but the most squeamish of diners.
GM recalls a half billion autos, but people keep buying the things, right? (said the man who recently got rid of his Chevy coupe in favor of a small German sedan.)
The Festus location had not been shut down since it opened, but still the underworld whispered of misdeeds.
The place used to be a Ryan's American buffet and not a very good one. Since the Hibachi folks redecorated it, it looks cleaner and more up to date than it did at Ryan's peak.
It is big, and busy.
I rode with my daughter, who recently got rid of her Japanese import in favor of a newer Japanese import. It still scares me to ride in a car that she's driving, even though she's been driving for many years and in fact had driven in from Seattle. Some irrational father-fears just never go away.
Adam and Ashton rode with Angel in her big, fully operational, non-recalled Chevy SUV. It did not explode, all its pieces and parts stayed in place.
The place was busy, but only about half. No waiting.
Leslye was immediately impressed by the size of the buffet lines. She's accustomed to more modest buffets as are more typical in her home area as opposed to the giant feeding troughs favored here in the Midwest.
We were shown to a large table and we rattled off our drink orders. The kids wanted pop, the adults ordered tea. Angel asked for sweet tea, I asked for "Unsweet tea, no sugar." which interestingly enough, baffled the server. It was like I'd given her a math problem. I had to repeat it. I enjoyed this so much I used the line again at a restaurant a couple of days later. (Sorry Steak and Shake!)
Sometimes I amuse myself.

The Food:
The kids knew their way around a buffet, the size of the lines did not deter them, especially Caprice. She found all the sugar coated pastries in a hurry. That and frog legs.
Yeah, a city girl wanted to try frog legs. Bold move, I don't even like the things, but I'd challenged her earlier. She's proud, precocious and stubborn enough to not back out of a challenge.
I decided to go through the Mongolian line. Noodles and veggies and a little meat, one egg and teriyaki sauce please.
I watched as the grill maestro deftly scooted, chopped and flipped the orders. I like this interactive theater. I even stuffed a single or two into the tip jar. It was either that or jump up and down clapping, which didn't seem to match my otherwise sober, stoic and macho persona.
I was the last one back to the table, which already looked like a small twister had blown through. I tend to forget how messy kids can be.
Kinley was picking at sticky fists full of food, Ashton, much like his uncle Adam, smart, head down, serious and tended toward more standard, dare I say bland, offerings. Caprice was all over the map. High energy, very chatty, engaging and funny, she danced through several plates of stuff. Five feet tall, about forty pounds soaking wet, it didn't seem to matter that her plates carried virtually nothing with any positive nutritional value.
"It tastes like chicken!" she said of the frog legs."
"They've got two dozen different chicken offerings here, if you wanted to eat something that tasted like chicken, why would you get something that isn't chicken but tastes exactly like it?" I asked. She didn't answer, she just gave me a funny look. That happened a lot over the four days they were with us.
My Mongolian was excellent. I like a good, savory noodle and I like grilled onions and bell peppers, plenty of them. I'd snagged a couple of rangoons as well, I'm reluctant to call them 'Crab Rangoons'  since I don't recall ever coming across any crab, or even krab in the things. Thin dough wrappers encasing a dollop of cream cheese, deep fried and crispy, good enough for me.
Everyone went back for second rounds, Caprice came and went more times than I could count.
My second plate had a spoonful of rice, another rangoon and dessert, cheese cake and bananas with red sauce. I also sampled some 'Japanese Chicken' because Angel said it was good. It was.
The food was quite good, the place was clean. The tables, floor and even serving areas were from my vantage point, spotless. Les even said the restrooms were tidy. No one had a complaint, everybody was gorged, the buffet lines remained stocked and constantly refreshed and most importantly, the servers said nothing about the carnage on the table and floor around the kids. The price was reasonable, about ten bucks per head for those twelve and over, I couldn't convince Caprice (Almost 13!!) to lie about her age, and a bit less for the toddler.
I saw no reason to be concerned about the place at all. No one got sick, no one complained, everyone found plenty of stuff to match their appetites. 
So even after a few months of operation, the Hibachi Buffet is staying the course, offering reasonably priced, decent quality food in a safe, clean environment.
My daughter liked it, her kids  liked it, what else do you need? It's good!

Hibachi Buffet on Urbanspoon

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