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By Erin Weaver

The teriyaki chicken entree looks identical to most chicken teriyaki options, and the side of vegetables lacked variety.

If you don’t already know, Kotatsu is no longer a hibachi grill—it is now the Kotatsu Japanese Steakhouse. The days of hibachi BYOB right down the road are over. If you’re looking for a substitute, don’t put your faith in Hibachi of Springfield.

Located in a commercial shopping center off of 476, Hibachi of Springfield is easy to get to, but probably not worth the trip. The service is friendly but distant, and the food is just good enough—worth eating if you’re next door at Staples or Walmart, but it doesn’t merit a trip there just for the food.

The dining area is plain and simple, with plenty of hibachi seating. There’s a regular restaurant downstairs with the full hibachi menu available if you’re not in a large group and don’t feel like catching shrimp in your mouth with strangers for an hour.

The downstairs restaurant has the entire hibachi menu available, plus a sushi buffet. Although the sushi was relatively good, it didn’t compare to the likes of Margaret Kuo’s.

And don’t visit the downstairs if you want to people-watch. The restaurant and bar area were almost entirely empty and uncomfortably silent, with no overhead music or anything to make you feel more at ease. Conversation was naturally kept to just above a whisper, because it felt too awkward to talk at a normal volume.  And it might seem like a small detail, but the carpet gave off an uncomfortable odor, offering a combination of Japanese food and the bathroom down the hall. Overall, it wasn’t enough to destroy an appetite, but it came close.

However, if  your appetite persists and you’re looking for a good appetizer, stick with the tried-and-true edamame beans. The serving is a little smaller than average, but the young soy beans are of great quality and come lightly salted. The Yakitori, a barbeque chicken kebab in teriyaki sauce, was disappointing and underwhelming. The chicken was too rough and difficult to get off the skewer.

As for the entrees, the chicken teriyaki was fine. Not mouth-wateringly delicious and not terrible—just average enough to satisfy hunger. Although bland, everything tasted fresh and was cooked enough to be edible, which is not exactly an accomplishment or bragging point.

The vegetables on the side were unsatisfactory, with only broccoli, squash and onions, and the broccoli was even a bit wilted. The accompanying dipping sauces were cold, which was unpleasant given that the chicken was fresh from the grill.

The other sampled entree fared a bit better. On Mondays, all combination meals are only $13.95, so if you’re looking to stretch your dollar, here’s the chance to do it. The filet mignon & lobster meal is definitely the best value and the tastiest combination available—it might even be worth the 15-minute drive to the restaurant.

On the whole, if you’re looking to replace your group outing to Kotatsu with another hibachi restaurant, Hibachi of Springfield is an okay choice—good, not great. The food is average, the chefs are entertaining and the service is perfectly fine.

The prices aren’t worth the experience unless you go on a Monday night. Most importantly, the overall atmosphere leaves something to be desired—the restaurant is not ideal for a group outing, nor is it suitable for a date.

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