The #NoVaCon2012 (North Virginia Conference) main event dinner this year was held at Sakura Japanese Steak and Seafood House. The restaurant itself is very nice, well lit, and clean with the typical large hibachi style tables throughout the main dining area. The staff was prompt and helpful, even though we weren’t seated until 8:20pm for our 8:00pm reservation. The menu was pretty much what you would find at any other similar style restaurant (chicken, steak, shrimp, salmon and a variety of combo entrees) so there were no real big surprises there.
Anyone who has gone to a similar styled restaurant knows that the cooking of your dinner is about the entertainment value as much as it is in the actual meal. The chef had a pretty typical routine starting off with some fancy knife work, setting the grill on fire, creating a smoking and then erupting onion volcano, and of course enlisting the help of a peeing fire extinguisher to bring everything under control. I do have to give him credit for the grill fire because it was one of the grander versions I’ve seen and I could feel the heat from it even though I was in the far corner.
As for the actual cooking, well the chef in my opinion did okay. The true art of hibachi isn’t in the twirling knives and the cheap culinary humor. Sure all of that is appreciated, and those chefs who expand on the traditional routine seem to be the exceptional as opposed to the rule. The true skill (beyond culinary basics and fire safety) is entirely in the timing of it all.
While I fully expected the fried rice way before my protein, once my chicken hit the plate it seemed like an irregularly long wait for the steak to be served up. Maybe it’s because I prefer my beef medium well, but I think even those who were medium rare waited a bit longer than you would normally expect. Nevertheless, it was all cooked well and was really quite tasty so there’s no complaints on either the quality or taste of the food.
Of course, what you may have already guessed is that the food is just one small portion of the entire reason for attending. The biggest reason is this group of people who, in one way or another, I share commonality with.
And as if all that isn’t enough, well, then there is always the experience of the saketini…