Pan-Asian cuisine fresh and fast in downtown GSO

by Brian Clarey

We all eat Chinese food, whether it be take-out or buffet, with tapioca pearls in fruit flavors and a traditional style as well as prepared tableside or served up family-style in a restau- smoothies and flavored teas. rant. What was once considered exotic fare in the US has I order a plate of walnut chicken and brace myself. been mainstream for 50 years now, and diners in even the Astonishingly, my food is cooked to order — it comes out hot, is most rural places in the country know the difference between an egg roll and dim sum.

But the awful truth, one not often spoken aloud for fear of seeming provincial, is that Chinese food can sometimes really suck. Maybe it’s been loaded down with MSG or it was prepared hours ago and has been growing soggy and rubbery under heat lamps. Maybe you don’t recognize the meat, or perhaps the only seasoning that has been used is a liberal dosing of soy sauce.

Whatever the reason, Chinese food can sometimes let you down. The Hibachi Café in downtown Greensboro is not strictly a Chinese restaurant. They serve standbys like fried rice, spring rolls, crab Rangoon and General Tso’s chicken, much of the menu is derived from Japanese culinary tradition: sushi rolls, seaweed salad, tempura, soba noodles and the like. The hibachi griddle is ensconced in the kitchen, and a few small tables line the tiny dining room.

Large windows to the street allow in generous swaths of natural light and allow patrons to watch the foot traffic as it passes by this busy section of Elm Street.

There is also a selection of bubble teas, delightful iced drinks loaded crispy where it’s supposed to be and there are plenty of toasted walnuts on top. The meat is immediately identifiable as chicken. The dish has a mild and sweet flavor, unique, and it doesn’t taste like every other Chinese dish I’ve ever eaten. As a bonus, it comes with lightly steamed vegetables and a side of brown rice, leading me to believe that it might actually be healthful, as is not often the case with Chinese food.

If Chinese food is a gamble, this dish came up a winner. I also order a traditional milk bubble tea, While I have long been a fan of fruit-favored bubble teas, I have never had anything like this: strong black tea with milk and ice and a generous complement of tapioca settled at the bottom. Tapioca is like nature’s gummi bear — sweet and chewy, with a deep caramel color and vanilla-like flavor. They work well with the tea and milk, so much so that I’ve added it, along with iced coffee and lightly flavored seltzer, to my list of preferred hot-weather drinks.

The Hibachi Café gets preferred status, too, both as a quick lunch place and a casual dinner option, because I have confidence that whatever I get, it will not suck.

On a weekday afternoon, the phone bleeps with a near constant influx of lunch orders for delivery to downtown offices; a midday menu featured a slew of Chinese dishes in addition to the usual fare.

wanna go?

Hibachi Café 336.272.300

362 S. Elm St., Greensboro