Finale of Fishy February

I figured I would finish out my February pescatarian parade with a little sushi and try a new, to me, place in Seneca. Hibachi & Grill Asian Buffet is not the highest rated Asian restaurant around but buffets aren’t often the top of the class. 

The decor of Hibachi & Grill Asian Buffet evokes memories of a multitude of other Chinese restaurants I’ve been to over my lifespan. Dark wood, plenty of red accents and a little on the dimly lit side. The service was good. I was greeted as soon as I walked in the door and seated seconds later. She took me right up to the table closest to the buffet. I’m guessing people asking to order off a menu is a rare thing because she didn’t even ask, just assumed I was having the buffet. I’ve purposely avoided buffets for the most part over the last few years as I don’t feel like I’m playing the game right if I don’t have multiple trips under my belt before I leave. Today wasn’t much different but unlike many of my fellow diners I didn’t make it a point of stress testing the plate capacity on each visit.

Hibachi & Grill has 4 buffet tables in the center of the food area plus a sushi selection against the wall in the back. There is also a hibachi station where you pick you ingredients, ring the bell and watch the dude fry up your stuff. The sushi was the primary reason I was there so that was my first stop.

This was not peak sushi but also it didn’t make me sick so I’m good with that. Joking aside it was solidly mediocre. The wasabi was starting to dry out and one of the rolls looked like it might be sketchy in another 20 minutes. The pickled ginger was spot on. I will give them this, they had a sign up saying the sushi was not allowed to be there more than 4 hours and if you thought it looked bad let them know.

After this I did a quick tour of the rest to see what other seafood they had. The first station was the desert station which had some interesting things on it. Maybe later. The second was soups and salads. Both the egg drop and mushroom soups looked decent and a few folks were loading up on them.

Row 3 was fry town. Not quite everything was deep fried on this one but most were. Not this trip.

The fourth steam table had rice, lo mein and vegetables plus some steamed fish and “seafood delight”. Those were in the zone so that was the next plate.

The fried rice was decent. The steamed white fish I really expected to be bland as there didn’t appear to be any seasoning on it but it was actually good. The flesh was still reasonably firm and had just enough salt to enhance the flavor. The “seafood delight” was shrimp and fake crab meat. The shrimp was over cooked and the fake crab had the flavor cooked out of it so it really didn’t have much to recommend it. Let me go ahead and address the elephant on the plate. That giant single rib is obviously not seafood but it was next to the seafood and the guy next to me was raving about them as he loaded his plate. They were “extra tender” and “better deal than any of the BBQ places”. If I hadn’t gotten one I’m pretty sure it would have ruined his day. It was tender, because it had been boiled, and on a price per pound basis it was in fact more economical than the local BBQ places. It did lack the smoky flavor and tasty dry rub or sauce you’d find at those places too so there was that.

Now I should have stopped there and been done with it, however that did not happen. I’d seen more seafood options in Fry Town.

The fried fish was more bland that the steamed white fish which was surprising and disappointing. I could see what was supposed to be seasoning in the batter. It was also kind of chewy. The crab rangoon was crafted by someone who’d obviously given up and the filling was devoid of even fake crab. It was deep fried cream cheese, which I’m not opposed to but still. The egg roll was hot and pretty standard for the species. The mystery meat on the stick was over cooked and lacking seasoning as well. Parts of it were jerky-esque so at least I got a jaw work-out. At the end of this plate I was actually miserable because it was just too much. Sadly the desert station was not visited.

I’m giving them grief and somewhat deservedly but also this cost me $12.50 with the drink so I’m not going to say I didn’t get my money’s worth. I think the folks who were obvious regulars likely fall into two categories; those that know the few items they do well and enjoy them and those that are all about the volume baby. Either way in spite of feeling miserable for a while and not having anything that knocked my socks off I’m still happy I went. Don’t know what I’m doing next but I enjoyed my fish themed February.

Fry Fry Again


This weekend I took the culinary-passport on the road to enjoy lunch with friends in West Columbia, SC.  The McGehees have been with me for several blog lunches and this time we were going to try a Jamaican place they’d not been to before.  Wait, you say, the title clearly says USA.  And so it does.  Our plans got derailed when we got to the Jamaican restaurant and it was closed.  When we saw the neighborhood I don’t think any of us was that sad it was closed.  I don’t feel like I’m being elitist or anything when I say this was a sketchy neighborhood because there were bars on all the windows and not the decorative wrought iron kind.

So we regrouped and decided since Jamaican wasn’t in the works and we were hungry, Jackson’s Southern Kitchen would provide the comfort food we’d need to console ourselves.  I was also promised they had some of the best fried chicken ever and what decent Southerner would turn down great fried chicken.

Aside from the assurances of my friends this was a good place to eat the number of cars in the parking lot was another give away that the place was popular.  Jackson’s is a buffet style restaurant with a salad bar (I saw maybe half a dozen people get something from it), a hot bar (where the good stuff is), and a dessert and bread bar (where more good stuff is).  The restaurant is broken up into several large rooms with plenty of seating but Saturday afternoon at the buffet is a busy time which meant tables were at a premium.  We got one in the room with the buffet bars so it was convenient but on the other hand there were so many people and it was loud.  But when the eating started it didn’t really matter.

Most of the containers here are not the huge square ones that seem to be standard at most buffets but about half that size.  The line goes down both sides so this along with the tray sizes means they are constantly bringing out fresh food and the popular items are always hot from the kitchen.  For my first trip I decided the hyped fried chicken would be the primary meat item.

In addition to the chicken I got some BBQ, hash and rice, mashed potatoes and green beans.  If you aren’t familiar with this part of South Carolina let me tell you they are a mustard based bar-b-cue sauce people and they also put mustard in their hash.  It’s not my favorite of the regional sauces so I enjoyed the smoked meat plain just fine.  The hash and rice was meh and the green beans we good.  The two best items on this plate were the mashed potatoes and chicken.  The mashed potatoes were made with red skin potatoes and were some of the best plain old mashed potatoes I’ve had at a restaurant.  They had a good potato taste with just the right amount of salt and butter that you didn’t need to add anything.  The chicken was as promised some of the best I’ve eaten from a restaurant.  We had some discussion about whether your Mama’s or Grandmama’s chicken counted when judging the best chicken ever as they were likely default winners.  We ended up with me stipulating that as purchased fried chicken went this was probably top two.  What they have going for them is the chicken is always hot and cooked just right down to the bone.  Not overcooked or undercooked but just like the baby bear’s porridge, it’s just right.  The coating is fairly light and the seasoning is simple but very tasty.  Plate 1 was a winner overall.

One reason I tend to avoid buffets nowadays is the almost mandatory second trip and I succumbed to that peer pressure from the hundreds of not skinny people around me.  I did get only ribs plus a couple of sides to help calibrate Jackson’s against other buffets and oh yeah more potatoes.  The baby limas were good and the mac & cheese was also very competently done but nothing to stretch a blog out over.  The ribs though do deserve a line of appreciation.  They weren’t fall off the bone tender like you get some places but what they were was meaty and smokey with a good sauce.  The smoked flavor went beyond just the surface and permeated the meat entirely.  The meat was tender and was easy to cut or tear from the bone depending on your caveperson proclivities.  The sauce was a little sweeter than I would make it but still very good and as I said there was plenty of meat on each rib.  Plate 2 was a winner as well.

The dessert bar was loaded down with staples of the southern buffet and each of us got something different.  I went with the banana pudding and it was ok but I’d probably have been happier with something like the strawberry shortcake or some peach cobbler.

Final verdict is Jackson’s is a great place to go with friends and family to enjoy a mess of comfort food that on the whole is made by people who know what’s what in the kitchen.  So while it’s too bad we didn’t get a chance to try something new we finished lunch more than satisfied with the backup plan.  Thanks to the McGehees for sharing the meal and their company.

Japan in Amber








After skipping a week and being busy as IT support Saturday and hitting the cinema to see Capt. America Sunday, keeping it close to home was an attractive option so I decided to head on over to Amber Buffet & Hibachi to represent Japan.  I’d seen it many times since moving to Rock Hill but the hibachi part filled the bill today.  They were moderately busy at 2:00pm Sunday.  It had the most diverse cross section of humanity I’ve come across on any of these dining experiences.  I guess buffets are the great equalizers.  The dining area was a bit dim and they love some colored lights.  The buffet area was a actually better lit and quite large.

The first thing I hit was the sushi line.  There was a nice selection of pretty basic options and I tried one of each.  You can pick you wasabi and ginger from a big bowl.  It all looked pretty vibrant and the way people were hitting the sushi station they had to be restocking it pretty often although I didn’t see anyone making them.


After that appetizer I ventured down that same line to the hibachi zone.  Here you pick you meat and a few veggies and some noodles if you want and put the plate on the counter and they line them up and grill the contents, put the finished product on a new plate and set it on the other end of the counter.  Nice and easy.  I was kind of surprised they didn’t have any rice there but that may have been to keep from having to clean it off the grill.  Whatever the reason I wasn’t sad to go with the steak, chicken, noodles, fungus and veggies.


After that I perused the buffet lines.  There is a big rectangle with plates of you standard oriental buffet fare and then a couple of lines with salads & vegetables and one with deserts and ice cream.  I did like the white serving plates that gave everything a bright clean look.  I opted for a couple of items from the steamer section and ended the day with some fruit.


On one hand I’m sorry I never went in before now and on the other I’m glad because I could get big as a house if it became a habit.  As buffets go I have to give this place high marks.  The food was good, the staff was friendly, the patrons were well mannered and never once did I see people waiting at an empty spot on the buffet.  I’ll be back but not too frequently.

Here’s the web site and don’t forget to check out the Tell Me More page for a yum yum sauce recipe and a great music video.

Amber Buffet & Hibachi