Hibachi Grill comes to Glencoe Crossing
by Sally Mitani
"We have fifty to eighty Hibachi Grills," says Selina Chen, of the recently opened mega-buffet on Washtenaw. Chen talks fast and isn't concerned with details like whether the number is closer to fifty or eighty. They're opening fast, is the point.
Chen is a member of the founding family--a large clan from south China made up of "cousins, family, friends"--that opened the first Hibachi Grill in Dunn, North Carolina, in 2007. They paired Asian items with American comfort food to create all-you-can-eat buffets serving everything from sushi to mac and cheese.
Tiny and lithe with an elaborately jeweled phone holster and wedding ring, Chen, twenty-six, has spent her adult life traveling around the country opening Hibachi Grills. Her husband, Meng Wang, travels and works with her, and they have a daughter named Hillary: "I named her that because I want her to be president!" Chen says.
At first blush, Hibachi Grill might seem to be going head to head with Ichiban, its neighbor in Glencoe Crossing. Ichiban seems to think so--it has hastily erected some no-nonsense black-and-white posters in its windows advertising 30 percent off. But Chen seems surprised at the comparison, saying her business is "a different type. We have a buffet. Here, we take a look at it right now," she grins, and jumps up to lead a tour.
With eighteen bars and buffets in the center and back, and rows and rows of dark booths on each side, Hibachi Grill looks like a church of food. Including the private party room, it can seat upwards of 350 people. In the front is a large foyer and elaborate fountain (which will eventually have koi, once the water is tested and purified). The fountain and some eye-catching light displays actually draw the eye away from all the food, and despite the drama and rainbow sprays of light on the ceiling, noise and light levels are pitched low, so diners get a feeling of privacy and even formality.
Chen says all
Hibachi Grills are designed pretty much the same, but the Ann Arbor one is notable because it has sushi: "Because people love sushi here," she says confidently. "But you see, we have ice cream bar, and here's American style with prime rib. I know American people like that. Here's traditional Chinese style. Here's kids' style--like chicken nuggets, French fries. All you see is food! Nothing else!" There's a salad bar (which in the evening includes raw oysters), a buffet that seems more or less Italian, another that's more or less Mexican, and several dessert bars. In the back is a create-your-own stir-fry, made while you wait. "Pretty soon, we're even going to have our own smoothie," Chen says.
All this for prices ranging from $4.99 (kids, lunch) to $10.99 (adults, dinner). Drinks--conventional soft drinks only--are extra, and Chen says a liquor license has been applied for.
The Hibachi Grill replaces the Bistro Bar & Grill, a restaurant that had a similar commitment to serving just about anything to anyone--an old menu still up on the website lists ribs, fettuccine, fajitas, jambalaya, pulled pork, and pizza. But that was ordered off a menu, and Chen is supremely confident that her buffet will thrive. "We're gonna soon be in what is it? Taylor? Near here? As soon as this one is stable for a few months, I'll probably go on."
Hibachi Grill, 4735 Washtenaw (Glencoe Crossing), 528-9999. Daily 11 a.m.-10 p.m. hibachigrillsupremebuffet.com
[Originally published in August, 2012.]