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story.lead_photo.caption The edamame at Chicot Hibachi Express in North Little Rock is grilled and salted before serving. Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/Rosemary Boggs

Usually when I think of a hibachi restaurant, it's one of those places with big grill tables where the chef bangs and clangs his utensils and lights an onion volcano. Often you end up sitting with people you don't know, which can be fun or awkward.

But not all hibachi places offer tableside floor shows. Some have smaller grills where you choose your meat and vegetables, along with noodles or rice, and they are tossed and cooked without a lot of fanfare.

Then there are restaurants such as Chicot Hibachi Express, where the grill is hidden in the back and you just order and wait for the end result. The North Little Rock location used to house a Papa Murphy's take-and-bake pizza place, but with renovations, it looks nothing like that. Chicot Hibachi Express has an order counter fronting the back of the house where the food is cooked, and a dining area filled with tables and chairs. It's a bit cluttered, but there is plentiful seating for such a small interior. There are a few decorative accents, but nothing too flashy or cluttered.

Diners order at the back counter. A menu board hangs overhead, with takeout menus on the counter. After the order is taken, payment is made. Diners fix their own drinks in foam cups at the beverage station and then find a table. We were the only dine-in customers, but several patrons came into the restaurant to get takeout orders.

Since we had ordered a couple of appetizers, we expected those first. Eventually the server who had taken our order came out with a bag filled with foam takeout containers. What, no plates in a sit-down restaurant?

We set about unloading all the containers from the bag and admiring the dishes as we opened the lids. We started with an order of edamame ($2.99). The soybeans are boiled first and these looked like they also got a turn on the hibachi because there were a few charred spots on some of the bean pods. They had little seasoning but the beans were tender and popped right out of the pod. An order of egg rolls ($2.99) came with two. They were the basic fried version, but not too greasy. An order of crab rangoon ($2.99) was also a must. The thin outer wrappers were fried golden and crisp and the cream cheese filling was slightly sweet.

Chico Hibachi Express

7412 North Hills Blvd., Suite C, North Little Rock, and 2512 E. Harding Ave., Suite A, Pine Bluff

Cuisine: Asian

Hours: 11 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Monday through Saturday; 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday

Alcohol: No

Carryout: Yes

Wheelchair accessible: Yes

Credit Cards: V, MC, D, AE

Phone: (501) 864-7510 Website: chicot-hibachi-north-hills.business.site

We decided to split a Yum Yum roll ($7.99) off the Deep Fried Sushi portion of the menu. They did not skimp on the size of the roll, which was made with the usual rice and dried seaweed, or nori, fried shrimp and cream cheese, and then battered and fried. While it certainly isn't what you would think a traditional sushi combination might be, the combination of crisp shrimp and the cream cheese was delicious. Our only complaint on the sushi was that there could have been more shrimp.

There are three tempura options on the menu. We ordered the vegetable version ($5.99). The tempura coating was crisp and vegetables were tender crisp, not greasy or soggy. The order included two big slices of onion, broccoli and sweet potato, and it came with a teriyaki dipping sauce of sorts that was flavorful and added a hint of saltiness to the mildly seasoned tempura coating.

The entree portion of the menu is where you'll find the hibachi offerings that include chicken, shrimp, steak, vegetables, salmon and lobster. Pricing ranges from about $7 for the vegetable version up to $26.99 for the twin lobster. They are served with "hibachi vegetables," including zucchini, onion and large chunks of carrot that were too crunchy, and what the menu calls "fried rice." The rice contained some scrambled egg and was seasoned with soy sauce, but it was bland and soggy.

We ordered the shrimp and the steak. The grilled shrimp were almost overcooked and a tiny bit rubbery. The grilled steak was toothsome and a few chunks were a bit chewy, but it had a good flavor.

As for dessert, the smallish menu also lists Cake ($1.99) and Cheese Cake Tempura ($4.99), neither of which we tried.

After the fact I noticed a couple of prices on our bill that were different from the menu prices. For the most part there were several items that were marked about a dollar less on the menu. When I go back I will make sure to ask before I order. If you are interested, the two-sided takeout menu lists the North Little Rock location on one side and the Pine Bluff menu on the other. The North Little Rock Chicot Hibachi Express has a few more hibachi and appetizer offerings.

Weekend on 05/16/2019

Print Headline: RESTAURANT REVIEW: Chicot Hibachi's new North Little Rock branch has fire, no fanfare

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