Food face-off: Japanese restaurant authenticity narrowly triumphs fast-food

By Faith Miller and Nicholas Wynn

A common staple of American culture and cuisine is the fast food industry. With different establishments drawing from different culinary types and styles, fast food can provide quick, easy, and diverse meals. However, can fast food beat a classic restaurant? Between a fast food stop and full-service restaurant, which has better taste, service, portions, and cost? To answer these questions, The Milestone sent staffers Faith Miller and Nicholas Wynn to find out. This month, they tested Japanese cuisine at Hibachi Master and Sakura Express Japanese Grill.

IMG_5731Hibachi Master

Located at 8160 Beechmont Avenue in Anderson

Miller – Hibachi Master would have to be one of the best meals at a restaurant I have had in a very long time. Almost everything about the meal was perfect, and there is nothing to complain about. The staff was very nice and the menu was not cluttered with so many options that I couldn’t pick from it. As for the main meal, I ordered the Beef Yaki Udon which cost $12.95. This obviously included beef and udon noodles, but it also had different vegetables. When I had eaten this, it was the best flavor I had in a while. Even though it was a good portion size, IMG_5730I still had to take it home and finish it the next day. In addition with taking it home and eating it the next day cold, it still tasted amazing. Because of this wonderful experience, Hibachi Master deserves a 10/10.

Wynn – The meal at Hibachi Master is the best meal I’ve had in recent memory. There was nothing I could criticize about the meal, the restaurant, or the experience. The vegetable tempura we ordered as an appetizer was perfectly battered and deep-fried so it wasn’t crunchy, but wasn’t doughy either. It was soft, fluffy, and flaky, just as it should be. For the main meal, I had the Seafood Yaki Soba, which consisted of shrimp, scallops, and crabmeat, tossed with the stir-fired soba noodles and other vegetables. The quality of the food was the most authentic I’ve ever had. The tastes were strong and mixed well, and the overall meal was flavorful beyond comparison. The serving size was entirely normal as well, rather than annoyingly small, which was somewhat surprising considering the average $14.95 price. The complimentary Yum Yum Sauce also had an especially tangy kick that complimented the dish just right. Everything about this meal couldn’t have been any better, and I look forward to my next visit. Without having even tried the sushi bar or the full hibachi tables, which I expect to be just as well as the dining experience, I rate Hibachi Master a perfect 10/10.

Sakura Express Japanese GrillIMG_5732

Located at 1212 Ohio Pike in Amelia

Miller – Even though Hibachi Master was one of the better meals I have had in while, Sakura was very good compared to other fast food options. I tried the Beef Soba, which tasted very good and only cost $7.75. There was so much food that I didn’t even finish half of my meal before I was full. Because of the portions and the price of it, if you want something that is fast and tastes very good, this is clearly one of the better places to get food. IMG_5729Because of this, I believe that Sakura deserves a 9/10.

Wynn – Sakura had a difficult competition ahead of it against Hibachi Master, but Sakura definitely held its own. In fact, there isn’t that much to complain about at Sakura either. I ordered the House Soba for $8.95, which included beef, chicken, and shrimp, tossed with soba noodles and vegetables. The price was a little high for fast food, but the portion was so large that this filled me up completely while they still offered a larger size. The food was also high quality for a fast food stop, and while there was a little less variety in vegetables, they made sure to load the meal with both vegetables and protein. While the quality of the food was higher than most other fast food stops, it still didn’t have quite the flavorful intensity like at Hibachi Master. The flavor was still higher than expected though. It also didn’t have as many options, including sushi, scallops, crab, and tempura, but it almost didn’t need it. Sakura did just as well providing a plentiful and high-quality hibachi-cooked meal to satisfy nearly any rumbling stomach. It wasn’t a disappointment and is definitely a new fast food favorite of mine. Because of the large portions and higher than normal fast food quality, and especially considering Sakura’s recent opening, it earns an exceptional 8.5/10.

Overall, both dining experiences were exceptional, but because of the perfection of Hibachi Master, the restaurant wins this comparison. This isn’t to say that Sakura was a poor experience though. In fact, the fast food stop had a fair chance at beating the restaurant. We would recommend both Sakura Express and Hibachi Master to everyone, but would suggest Hibachi Master first if you have a little extra cash to spend.

Each month, Miller and Wynn will test one classic restaurant and one fast food restaurant of similar style. Comment below any suggestions for next month’s locations.

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