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VEGAS FOOD NERD’S TREK ACROSS AMERICA (Day 5 Pontiac, IL)

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The first stop was Pontiac, Illinois. There wasn’t much around our hotel, e...
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Ohjah

OHJAH

By Vegas Food Nerd


Hibachi dining isn’t a new or even remotely trendy thing. It is a concept most have experienced, and if you are like me, I can almost swear that they sprinkle the food with an addictive substance like the blue stuff that they made in “Breaking Bad.” You can’t argue the fun and entertaining side of having a guy cook right in front of you either. With knife skills and a sense of humor, your temporary personal chef feeds you and puts on a show at the same time.  What’s not to like?  

Ohjah, a small Nevada-based restaurant chain, is continuing in that tradition.  With five locations, Chef Zhigang Wang has created a fun take on the classic Hibachi restaurant. Wang lived in Tokyo and worked as a chef in a hotel there to learn the art of making sushi. He then moved to Las Vegas, where he garnered even more experience as a chef working at major casinos here in town and started to specialize in cooking with a hibachi while he worked at the Mirage. He left the Mirage to start Ohjah, offering a hibachi menu that beats out his local competitors on price – and as word of mouth spread, so did the size of his small local chain.  

What strikes you the most when you enter one of the Ohjah locations is how deceptive the outside of the restaurant can be. The bright yellow signage is a contrast to the dark, cozy interior of this space. The front of the restaurant that we dined in was for those looking to just order off the sushi and Thai sections of the menu. It’s the rear section of the restaurant where you can get in on the Hibachi action with the signature silver cooktop tables. Word to the wise: If you sit at a Hibachi table, you have to order at the very least the “Basic Hibachi,” which includes onion soup, salad, rice, and vegetables. Then you can upgrade your 

order with your preferred meat of choice. We sampled filet, shrimp teppanyaki, chicken teriyaki and a few of their signature sushi rolls. Their option of foregoing the rice and replacing it with fried noodles was so good, yet that fried rice is pretty amazing, too – so I might suggest that you order the noodles and get your dining companion to get the fried rice, giving you the best of both worlds. The meal began a bit awkwardly when they placed us at a table with another couple, putting our party at a terrible angle to view the cooking that was about to ensue. Not usually one to complain, I just had to say something about a seating error, and the management responded swiftly and quickly moved my friends and me to a table of our own without even another word. As it turned out, the couple was meeting friends that arrived after we moved, so thankfully, it worked out for everyone. The rest of our Ohjah experience was, to put it simply, fun! Our chef was funny and had great knife skills (as we’d hoped) and the food was fresh and delicious. So often we encounter price gouges and major sticker shock when dining in Las Vegas – you will not get that at Ohjah. In fact, our party had reverse sticker shock. We expected the bill to be much higher that it actually was.  

With all five locations and the value that is offered at Ohjah, it must be making their competitors nervous. Chef Zhigang Wang’s attention to detail and his high standards he holds for hiring his staff, definitely shine through during your visit. His sushi chefs must have a minimum of six year’s experience, and he also demands the freshest of ingredients in all the dishes they serve. Sometimes trendy is trendy for a reason, and when a dining experience like that found at Ohjah lasts as long as it has, well maybe, it’s because it is good and people really like it. And after all, isn’t that what your dining experience should be? Good food, good service, and some humor thrown in for good measure. And when that’s done, and your bellies have been filled, only one at our table could claim bragging rights after catching the flying shrimp that our chef tossed to him and his open mouth. Good times.  

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