First Look: Ninja Grill, Hibachi Eating Without Hibachi Seating

Occasionally one might be in the mood for some hibachi-prepared Japanese food without all the pomp and circumstance that usually accompany such an outing: Sitting around a communal hibachi grill with strangers in often uncomfortable seating (or worse yet for old knees, just pillows), having to endure all the requisite hibachi meal shtick that the chef feels compelled to perform. If you’ve seen one onion ring volcano, you’ve seen them all. And sure, the spinning, banging, and flourishing of the spatulas and knives can be impressive, but at the end of the day sometimes you just want to forgo that cacophony of sound and grilling performance art and just, you know, eat your food. The recently opened Ninja Grill in Plano offers just such an experience: Hibachi food without the theater. You don’t sit around a communal grill with strangers but rather at a traditional table, and the food is brought to you by a robot without fanfare.

Ordering is a five-step process; just choose the protein, the base, the vegetables, a cooking sauce, and finally a dipping sauce. No one has time for the math, but there are probably hundreds of combinations available to you, the diner who just wants to eat and not have to clap every couple of minutes when yet another chef propels a shrimp tail expertly into the top of their toque.

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Wonton and miso soup.

Hank Vaughn

We started off with a couple of bowls of miso and wonton soup and our go-to green onion pancake. The soups are a bit pricy at over $5 for something that is usually included with hibachi meals, but they were serviceable. No surprises but nothing to write home about.

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Green onion pancake.

Hank Vaughn

The green onion pancake (more Chinese than Japanese, but who’s keeping score?) came four quarters to an order over the usual eight. They were fine, not overpowered by the onions, but perhaps a bit on the thin side.

For our mains, we went with shrimp and steak as our proteins, but other options include chicken breast or thigh, beef rib, fried tofu, squid, salmon, scallop and vegetables only. The base can be either fried or white rice, lo mein, or rice noodles, and we went with fried rice and lo mein. You can select up to five vegetables, oddly enough including pineapple and egg. If one can get past the fact that they consider pineapple and egg vegetables, it’s a good selection.

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HIbachi shrimp in Mongolian sauce with lo mein noodles, veggies and garlic butter dipping sauce.

Hank Vaughn

The $13.99 jumbo shrimp plate had a decent amount of good-sized grilled shrimp, with lo mein noodles as a base and broccoli, onions, zucchini, cabbage and egg additions, all in a Mongolian sauce with garlic butter for dipping on the side. It was a large serving with the expected hibachi grilled flavor. The noodles were not bad, but in the future, we’d probably go with a more traditional rice base.

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Hibachi steak with veggies, fried rice and yum yum dipping sauce.

Hank Vaughn

The steak plate had a generous amount of tender grilled steak (probably sirloin) with onions, broccoli, cabbage and egg added, all perfectly cooked and seasoned in a traditional hibachi sauce. Again, a larger portion than expected, and it came with yum yum dipping sauce along with a large scoop of fried rice as a base. It’s also $13.99.

So, when all’s said and done, this was a really good hibachi meal costing less than half what you’d expect to pay at the Benihanas or Jinbehs of the world, and it was much quieter. Maybe we did miss seeing the onion volcano just a little bit, however…

6509 W. Park Blvd., No. 435, Plano. Open daily, 11 a.m. – 9:30 p.m.

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