Wok and Hibachi is the “cornerstone” of a row of storefronts found at the corner of Johnson City’s North Roan and East Unaka Avenue. The open-plan dining area has seating for about 100 patrons, with a buffet service line and a teppan grill station to the rear. Access to well-kept restrooms are also found here. There is a separate room for private get-togethers nearby. The overall decor is mostly muted grays with tastefully minimal “Asian Modern” accents and (thankfully) no TVs.
The Menu — Expanded: Looking at the changes made to their menu, it was obvious that Wok and Hibachi realized just how much the local Asian cuisine scene had changed in the last five years. For starters, they had expanded their Japanese entrées, while adding a new section of what the menu called “Thai” that was more regional Southeast Asian cuisine than from Thailand itself.
• Happy Family: With a mental nod to the new entries, my dining partner chose her favorite meal from the thoroughly familiar (to her) Chinese cuisine portion of the menu. Beginning with a bowl of Wok and Hibachi’s incomparable hot and sour soup ($2.50), my dining partner followed it with the Happy Family entrée ($13.95). Here you have good-sized shrimp, sliced breast of chicken and strip of 100% beef all slow-simmered in the house’s savory brown sauce, then served with a side order of steamed white rice. My dining partner was very pleased with her entrée, especially with some of the fluffy rice spun into the meats and vegetables to make the Happy Family and my dining partner’s palate even happier.
• Hibachi Sesame Chicken: The Retiree wants Japanese whenever she dines at Wok and Hibachi, choosing the hibachi sesame chicken entrée ($10.95). Our friend enjoys the mixing of flavors and textures found in the dish, and can watch it being prepared on the teppan grill, conversing with the chef while he grills the chunked white meat chicken, mushrooms, onions, chopped zucchini and brown sauce, then plates it with the right amount of fried rice. Our globe-traveling friend dines with refinement using a set of polished ebony chopsticks purchased from Tokyo’s Ginza. The rest of us make do with knives and forks.
• Vegetable Shrimp: For once, the Dieter gave her all-vegetable diet a rest, deciding on the Vegetable Shrimp entrée ($11.50). Cantonese in origin, with vegetable broth instead of chicken, a fat handful of fifteen-count-sized shrimp get flash-boiled before the straw mushrooms, water chestnuts, chopped celery, broccoli florets and snow peas are added. The entrée is then plated and served with a side order of the house fried rice to hand. Colorful, aromatic and yes, very nice indeed.
• Pad Thai Shrimp: The dish I use to gauge competency in cooking Thai cuisine is Pad Thai Shrimp ($11.95) The entrée placed in front of me had a fragrant steam rising off succulent shrimp, Chinese cabbage, sliced onions and bean sprouts on a bed of nutty-tasting udon noodles, topped with raw bean sprouts, a nice little pile of finely chopped peanuts to one side with the necessary wedge of fresh lime to add the sharp sour note, unifying the rest of the elements into the perfect whole that is Pad Thai.
• Satay Chicken Hot Pot: The Carnivore also sampled Wok and Hibachi’s Thai menu, choosing their Satay Chicken Hot Pot ($14.95). A clay pot is packed with sliced white meat chicken, snow peas, red pepper, broccoli, water chestnuts, Chinese lettuce, corn kernels and a good helping of satay sauce and then slow-cooked so everything blends just right and different food textures are displayed to their best advantage. After baking until hot and bubbling, the clay pot, contents and all, is served at table together with steamed white rice. Oh, and the clay pot helps the chicken satay keep its high temperature for a good long time, a fact the Carnivore learned at the cost of a slightly scorched tongue. If you make a bed of the steamed rice and then began to spoon the chicken satay onto it, the rice cools the satay, decreasing temperature and increasing enjoyment.
The bottom line: It is good to see Wok and Hibachi anticipating change and keeping in step with the times. The changes in their menu is sure to add to the number of “regulars” that already visit them each week, as well as bring new patrons looking for an Asian restaurant that can handle a varied and eclectic menu with ease. They offer a Friday Dinner Buffet and a Sunday Lunch Buffet that also includes sushi, so both regulars and newcomers get a broader understanding and sampling of their menu. Why not stop in and see what’s cooking?
Wok and Hibachi
101 E. Unaka Ave.
Mon-Sat 11 a.m.-4 p.m.
Mon-Sun 11 a.m.-10 p.m.
Available on Facebook
Credit cards accepted