Asahi Japanese Seafood and Steak House appears to be a hole-in-the-wall in the same shopping complex as JoAnne’s Fabrics and Bollywood Masala. But stepping inside the restaurant reveals an extremely nice Japanese grill, complete with a sushi bar, intimate tables, and fourteen hibachi grills. Each grill seats eight comfortably, so there is ample seating available.
In the background, loud Asian pop music was playing, and it was admittedly fairly distracting. The decorations were standardly Asian-fusion, with tapestries and lanterns adorning the walls and ceiling, respectively. In the entrance, however, laser cut glass with the image of a Geisha-esque figure greets all who first walk in.
For those readers unfamiliar with the hibachi grills, it is essentially a communal table with a grill in the center where a highly trained chef comes out and cooks the food in front of the customers. In most cases, the chef will flip around or somewhat juggle the knives and serving utensils, light food on fire, and perform the famous novelty trick of throwing food into the customers’ mouths as well as their own.
We, as vegetarians, ordered the Vegetable Dinner hibachi grill option with fried rice. We had to be extremely specific about our dietary restrictions – it was clear that the workers in the restaurant are not used to accommodating vegetarians, and certainly not vegans. They exchanged our starter soups (which is usually clear chicken broth with mushrooms) for miso soup and brought out our salads as the chef, Mark, began to make his way towards our grill.
As the only two customers sitting at that particular grill, we were fairly relaxed, and Mark picked up on that. He was absolutely hysterical. Cracking jokes the entire time, he casually lit the oil on the grill on fire and began to cook.
Watching Mark cook was like watching an artist paint. The food looked and smelled mouthwatering as he mixed our vegetables and added the restaurant’s special “Yum Yum” sauce to the fried rice. Being able to watch the food being cooked not only alleviated our concerns about the restaurant accommodating our dietary restrictions, but it added to our anticipation of finally being able to eat and made the food that much more rewarding.
The food itself was well worth the wait – the vegetables were cooked to perfection and the rice tasted like a dish of its own. We added copious amounts of Yum Yum sauce to the vegetables and the rice and found that it only intensified the flavors and added to the texture.
The food at Asahi is phenomenal, the staff extremely pleasant and entertaining, and the atmosphere is nicer than the average Lexington Park restaurant. That said, the prices are reasonable for a hibachi grill; definitely only go to this restaurant on special occasions like birthdays and anniversaries, and be sure to dress up a little. The only complaints we have are about making dietary restrictions understood – do NOT go to this restaurant as a vegan. Vegetarians, proceed with caution. Absolutely ask for Mark if you want a good laugh, but only if you have a thick skin and are not easily offended. Overall, we would give Asahi 4.5 out of 5 stars.