The décor is very striking when you enter – it is lavish, unique and unexpected. The backlit bar, the ornate light fixtures, and the giant Buddha statue poised at the far end of a long shallow pond give a trendy night club feel to it.
So, as I was wondering what I was doing in a trendy night club atmosphere with my L.L. Bean coat and my four-year-old, I was relieved to feel more at home in the hibachi section – where diners ranged from groups of college kids to families to moms’ night out parties. The hibachi area has eight grills and the chefs are constantly rotating from one to the next. I assume the crowd was heavy because of the half-priced entrée promotion, and the reservation list looked long.
The menu is extensive, and I noticed many people get sushi in addition to the hibachi entrée. The sushi eaters at our table gave rave reviews for the salmon sushi, which came out in a very elaborate presentation.
The choices for hibachi entrees include scallops, chicken, filet mignon, lobster and various combinations of all the above. Prices range from $13 for vegetable hibachi to $31 for a filet and lobster combination. All entrees include a simple, clear soup with mushrooms an iceberg salad smothered in ginger dressing and fried rice. All but the vegetable entrée come with a two-piece shrimp appetizer. Have I mentioned that Mondays and Tuesdays all of these are half price?
The drinks and food seem to play second fiddle to the main event, which is the hibachi show. The atmosphere is unusually playful for a restaurant which is perhaps why so many people choose fluorescent drinks with umbrellas. Because the show is always going on at someone’s table, we were able to view it at a distance first, which was fortunate because, at first, the clanging spatulas, the boisterous clapping, the bursts of flames and flying food sent the little one under the table, covering her ears.
Both of the hibachi chefs I witnessed were pros. They flip around spatulas, spin eggs and toss them into the top of their hat. They ignite large fires on the grill and create a volcano from a stack of sliced onions. Each diner gets a chance to catch a piece of food in their mouths while simultaneously looking like a fool. If looking like a fool is your sort of thing, go ahead and have rice wine sprayed into your mouth from a squeeze bottle. The chef works at lightning pace, chopping, frying, squeezing sauces and shaking spices on the food. Hibachi is definitely a performance here.
Feeling a little anti-meat these days, I opted for the vegetable hibachi. Others at our table got chicken, lobster and filet. I was impressed at how nice the cuts of meat were and the abundance of fresh vegetables. Michael took care to prepare the steak several different ways, according to the preferences of the four girls at our table. When the show ended and the focus turned to enjoying the meal, the interest level of my daughter waned. Fortunately, the waitress brought her kid-friendly chopsticks so she spent some time picking up the food (although I’m not sure any of it actually made it in the mouth)
The food was tasty, although a bit on the salty side. The presentation suffered a bit because the chef was reaching across the grill, doling out food quickly from his spatula onto the plates. Fried rice went all over the table. Most of the food that was previously flipped up so we could catch in our mouth ended up on laps, in hair or on the floor.
The hibachi is only one third of the restaurant and the other areas definitely have a more intimate and mature feel to them. That is where I would sit if I wanted to actually maintain a conversation with a fellow diner.
However, the hibachi side of Kon definitely had its perks. The value was great for us (and even better when you don’t get an $8 Sapporo beer and a $2.50 apple juice), the food is fresh and tasty and you get live entertainment. For those of you who enjoy making a ruckus at dinner, this might just be your place.
Kon Asian Bistro is located at 1140 Brighton Avenue. http://konasianbistro.com/