Feng Asian Bistro & Hibachi, Canton

 

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Feng Asian Bistro & Hibachi ★★ (Very Good)

Hibachi cooking is an action game, a dramatic art and an exciting spectator sport—when the chefs are good. And the two I am watching are looking great. Both are commanding figures, dressed for combat with swashbuckling sashes and colorful headgear, no servile whites and cream-puff toques for them! 

The chef at my table exhibits the affable reserve of a star performer giving a master class. The chef at the next table clowns around, aiming to astound. He bounces an egg—once, twice. The third time it slides off the table. Laughter all around. There are four kids at that table and they love it. I do, too, but reserve judgment because the proof of the cooking is in the food, and that’s what we’re here to assess.

When I reviewed Feng Asian Bistro in Hartford in 2007, I called it a dining destination with bells on. With soaring stone-faced walls, theatrical lighting, Kobe beef to cook on a hot rock and sushi from here to eternity, it was an instant hit, and why not? Could there be anything more to wish for?

Ah, but there always is. Hibachi, Asian barbecue à la Cirque du Soleil: spinning spatulas, flashing knives, dancing shrimp, holy-cow pyrotechnics. All of the above are on display in Canton, where the Ginza Group has just opened a second Feng Asian Bistro, this one featuring hibachi cooking.

Architecturally striking in black, gray and Chinese red, this Feng has a sake lounge, a sushi bar, a full Asian kitchen and a hibachi room that goes on forever. We’re dazzled by the decor, mesmerized by the show—but hold on, there’s trouble in paradise.

It ends well but begins with chaos. We wait in line to claim our reservation. Three different staff members find our name on a list, nod, smile, and indicate that we should wait. So we wait—and wait and wait. Wilting, we commandeer a row of chairs along a wall in the hibachi room, where we’re jostled by customers and ignored by staff.

We’re tempted to give up but I am a small-boat sailor conditioned to “finish the race” (even when you’re losing), so I thank my friends for their patience, we stick it out and are eventually seated at a gleaming U-shaped table with interesting tablemates. From then on, it’s smooth sailing.

The hibachi menu is appealing, with upscale ingredients like filet mignon and lobster tail, solo or in surf-and-turf combinations. These come with two grilled shrimp, a bowl of mushroom soup and fried or white rice. Clearly, we’ll have plenty to eat.

Still, we stray from the hibachi menu to order a few starters from the kitchen and the sushi bar. Kobe beef carpaccio is a real treat, tender rosy beef slices paired with baby arugula with creamy balsamic dressing and pickled hon-shimeji mushrooms.

Toro tartare is a bit disappointing. While toro by definition is fatty, in fine dice it’s almost too soft. It is also rather bland. It would have been nice if it had been garnished, as the menu said it would be, with Asian pear and nori wasabi, but neither was in evidence—just a tiny sprinkle of masago (capelin roe). Our waitress recommends the Paradise Roll, a thick log of rice-wrapped king crab, avocado and shrimp tempura with spicy, crunchy salmon and two sauces, yuzu garlic and honey wasabi. We like it but it’s almost too complex—so many flavors, so little of each.

Feng Asian Bistro & Hibachi, Canton

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