With today’s economy there seem to be fewer and fewer people who decide to undertake the daunting task of financing, staffing and managing a new dining establishment. I sometimes have to go far afield to find a restaurant that hasn’t been reviewed recently.
I tend to troll Cabot and its environs on the lookout for a prospect, and since the city has been booming over the last few years, I have success from time to time. Case in point: AR Hibachi Grill, a buffet and carryout restaurant in a strip-center storefront right off of U.S. 67/167, near the Wal-Mart Supercenter, Dixie Cafe and Sawbucks, a restaurant I reviewed earlier this year.
There is ample parking in the lot or right in front of the door. The exterior is rather plain, but the interior is much more welcoming. Customers who enter through the double doors are greeted and seated at booths or tables. At buffet places I prefer to sit at a table so the person on the outside doesn’t have to keep getting up and down every time the person on the inside seat wants to get up. (Am I the only one who feels that way?)
The dining room is large, broken up by short walls that anchor rows of booths, with an overflow dining room on the far left. The tables and chairs are dark wood, and the booths are the basic padded version.
The buffet is in the back of the room, with a plentiful variety of hot and cold selections. The hibachi grill and sushi bar are behind the buffet.
My son, mother and I made a first visit midafternoon on a Saturday in late August. It wasn’t busy, so we were seated immediately, at a table a bit too near the buffet. It was nice to be that close,but the heat from the steam tables was stifling. By the time we realized it, we didn’t feel like moving.
The buffet did seem like a good way to try a lot of dishes at one time. The far left table holds a variety of fried foods - including egg rolls, spring rolls, fried wontons, chicken on a stick and fried chicken chunks - plus steamed dumplings and egg drop and hot and sour soups.
The next few tables contain fried and sauteed meats (with and without vegetables), rice, noodles, salmon, mushrooms, stuffed potato skins, green beans, frog legs and coconut shrimp. There’s also a salad and fresh fruit bar, soft-serve ice cream and a small selection of desserts.
In the hibachi area you can choose a variety of ingredients and the chef cooks it all up for you on the big grill. The sushi section contains an array of attractive maki rolls and nigiri, rice with fish on top. (And since the folks in these two areas cook and make fresh sushi for you, they do deserve a tip.)
There’s really more than enough to choose from, and something for just about everyone - unless you are really, really picky.
The Saturday and Sunday buffet is $10.99 because it includes crab legs. Normally it’s $7.49 for lunch and $9.99 for dinner, $4.75 for lunch and $6.05 for dinner for kids 4-10.
Everything we tried was pretty tasty, but not everything on a buffet does well after it sits there for a while. The crispy fried wontons, with cream-cheese filling, were delicious, and one of the best I’ve ever eaten. The spring roll, however, was disappointingly bland.
I did enjoy the Shrimp with Salt and Pepper, the Coconut Shrimp and the sauteed mushrooms a lot. I put some of the fried chicken chunks in a soup cup with sweet and sour sauce, but the sauce was a bit underwhelming, more sour than sweet.
I heaped crab legs on a plate, grabbed two crab crackers and some melted margarine and headed back to the table with glee. The snow crab clusters were small and required a bit of work. (When I managed to pull out a nice chunk of crab meat, it was like I struck gold.) It would have been nice if they’d seasoned them just a little, but my son and I still enjoyed them. However, the water from the steam tray tended to run down my arms when I was cracking the legs.
For dessert, there’s a tasty cheesecake with graham-cracker crust, a couple of puddings, colorful gelatin, small cream-filled tarts and the standard almond cookies, which are always good. Something new: chocolate soft-serve ice cream with sunflower seeds on top that added a nice crunch and saltiness.
On a second visit Sunday after church, the restaurant was relatively empty, but it wasn’t long before large groups started streaming through the door.
Since we’d tried the buffet, I decided to order off the menu, which mystified the lady who took us to our table and got our drink order, but she brought two paper menus to the table and went off to help someone else.
Hoping that everything would be cooked fresh, I kept my eye peeled to see if the woman brought us food from the buffet. She did get our bowls of hot and sour and egg drop soup ($1.25 each) there, but it was piping hot, so I didn’t mind that. Both flavors were pretty standard. Not amazing, but not awful.
The fried wontons ($3.95) thankfully came out fresh and hot from the kitchen, and they were delicious. The outer wrappers were crunchy and the cream-cheese filling was smooth and creamy.
The Sesame Chicken ($8.25) came to the table first. The presentation was pretty, with a pile of very good breaded, fried and sauced chicken, sprinkled with plenty of sesame seeds, covered in a sort-of-sweet sauce and surrounded by tender-crisp broccoli florets. Those got left in the dust as we dug into the chicken.
We chose fried over steamed rice. Our server went to the buffet and returned with two bowls of yellowish rice that really could have used some seasoning, and maybe a few little pieces of vegetables.
The menu describes Two Kinds of Delight ($9.25) as scallops sauteed with crispy Chinese vegetables in white wine sauce combined with shrimp sauteed in chef ’s special sauce. What came out was an attractive dish of mixed scallops, shrimp and lots of red pepper flakes. I don’t usually order spicy food and, since the menu did not have the little red pepper next to the dish, I wasn’t expecting that. Thankfully a sweetness to the sauce helped calm the heat, and I managed to pick around the pepper flakes, and so was not disappointed. The medium-size shrimp and scallops were tender and delicious.
AR Hibachi also offers 11 a.m.-2:30 p.m. lunch specials, according to the menu. Combination plates ($5.05-$5.49), which come with egg roll, rice and soup, include standard Cantonese dishes - Moo Goo Gai Pan, Sweet & Sour Chicken, Almond Chicken and Pepper Steak.
AR Hibachi Grill Super Buffet & Carry Out
Address: 110 S. Rockwood Road, Cabot
Hours: 11 a.m.-9:30 p.m. Sunday-Thursday, 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Friday-Saturday
Cuisine: Chinese buffet, hibachi grill, sushi
Wheelchair accessible: Yes
Alcohol: No (Cabot is dry)
Weekend, Pages 40 on 10/10/2013
Print Headline: AR Hibachi serves Chinese comfort food 3 ways