A new Chinese restaurant on South Broadway offers a decidedly international range of flavors, ensuring there is something for everyone who walks through the door.
The Hibachi Buffet and Grill, located at 1901 S. Broadway next to Sidekicks Lounge, opened its doors Thursday and features a hibachi grill that allows customers to pick out their ingredients before watching the meal be prepared right before their eyes.
"Like hibachi they can pick out raw fish, raw meat that cook in front of you, just like a Mongolian pretty much, but is different sauce," said Jeff Lamb, who is helping to get the restaurant up and running. "Also we have (a regular) grill. You can pick out like steak, fish, chicken to grill for you. Just like when you do the barbecue at a house in the backyard."
"You can pick out all fresh meat and chicken to grill for you, that's what they call hibachi," Lamb added, noting they also have Korean-style barbecue and Japanese sushi. "That's where the name come from."
For those who don't care for Chinese food, there are still plenty of options. There will be a salad bar and such diverse offerings as hot dogs, pizza, steak, and macaroni and cheese. For dessert there with be five or six different flavors of ice cream.
"This kind of food is good for whole family. Like kids, if they don't like Chinese food, they can go out and eat American food like macaroni and cheese, pizza, hot dogs, they can cook that kind of food here," Lamb said. "If they don't like Chinese food, somebody like a steak eater, they can eat a steak here, like a pork chop. We try to have food for everybody."
The restaurant, which will have about 15 to 20 employees, is open seven days a week from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., and Lamb noted senior citizens get a 10 percent discount every day.
Leading up to Thursday, Lamb said they received numerous phone calls and walk-ins inquiring when they would be open. He credits the intense interest to Minot's booming economy, which has grown right along with the oil industry and Minot Air Force Base.
"The Minot economy growing a lot right now, the oil field, and I think that there a lot of fast food in Minot and (we) need a good sit-down restaurant here," Lamb said.
The family of Lamb's cousin, Steven Weng, owns the restaurant and did a lot of research before deciding to set up shop in the location formerly occupied by Chunky S Steak Buffet. Lamb himself has owned restaurants in the past, but sold them because he'd rather not deal with all the headaches ownership entails. He is instead happy to help open new locations before moving on to the next restaurant.
Lamb said before they completely remodeled the entire building, it was a mess. The location was so good, however, they knew it could be successful even though the previous restaurant had failed.
The remodeling work began around April or May and consisted of basically throwing out everything from the old restaurant and starting from scratch. The furniture was all special-made in China and intricate wall designs give the restaurant a very authentic feel.
The family owns more than 20 Hibachi restaurants, and this newest one is also the smallest.
The seating occupancy is 150, and Lamb said a typical Hibachi restaurant can fit anywhere from 300 to 500 people. Even though this one is much smaller, he said the location right on South Broadway was too good to pass up.
Along with decades of restaurant experience, Steven Weng also comes from a family of chefs. From his grandfather to his father to Weng himself, the secrets of cooking have been passed down from generation to generation.
"In China he (Weng) was a five-star cook," Lamb said.
With Minot's growing economy, Lamb doesn't see the Hibachi Buffet and Grill competing with other restaurants in town so much as complementing them. With a shortage of housing and more people trying to move here all the time, he thinks there are more than enough customers to go around.
"Minot have enough market for everybody here. I don't think we have any competition. We just make sure we do good service and serve a good meal, I think we have no problem," Lamb said. "Last year have a lot of restaurants opening in Minot, everybody do well here. It's so busy here, that's why we think we have no competition in Minot, is everybody have their own market."
Lamb said they want to keep this restaurant in Minot for many years to come, which is why they put such a high premium on not only the quality of the food, but of the service as well. Lamb makes a point of the signs on every buffet table stating all food must be thrown out after four hours as indicated by the health code.
"A lot of restaurants don't have this sign. We make sure the food keep hot and fresh. If it old, it must be thrown away," Lamb said. Every buffet table we put out that kind of sign and make sure the employee watch the food really carefully, make sure the food hot and fresh."
Although they thought about opening on Wednesday, Lamb said they ultimately decided to spend the extra day doing some final cleaning and preparation work so customers would have the best experience possible during the opening. It's this extra attention to detail, especially regarding cleanliness, that Lamb said is so important to running a quality restaurant.
"For the restaurant business, the most important is (being) healthy - cleaning and quality of food and service is really important, too. Those three things, you know, and you'll be really busy," Lamb said. "And reasonable price, you know? Good price for kids and for adults. Our lunch only run $7, $8. Our dinner run $9, $10. That's not bad right now."