On Monday, my wife and I were invited to dine at Oki's Japanese Steak House by a couple friends of ours. Oki's has been a long time favorite of ours, and essentially the basis by which we judge all other hibachi experiences. We jumped at the opportunity to go, and the fact that they had a buy one get one free entree coupon sealed the deal.
Oki's Japanese Steak House is located on Mineral Spring Avenue in North Providence. It is just seconds off Route 146 and its location is extremely convenient. It's located on the second floor above a small strip mall of stores, so it doesn't stand out the way a restaurant in a free standing building would. I think that adds to the charm of the place, and it makes for a great view from the windows in the bar area. While waiting for a table or having a drink, one can have a look out over what I believe is part of the Blackstone Valley. Its nice to look at in the day or night. As with all hibachi places, its fun with two people, but the experience gets better and better the larger the party gets. This time we had four (plus our friends 4 month old).
We've ordered appetizers and sushi here before, but this time we decided to stick to the basics and keep costs down a little with the dinner. Edamame is one of our go-to appetizers. It's steamed/boiled soy beans served whole inside the pod. They can either be popped out of the pod right into your mouth or into a soy sauce bath and eaten with chop sticks. They have a lengthy list of hot and cold appetizers as well as a long sushi list too. We've never been disappointed with anything we've ordered or picked off a friends plate.
Oki's has a traditional non-hibachi menu, but honestly, I couldn't tell you a thing about it. When ever we go to Oki's it's because of the experience and taste of the hibachi, and it is the perfection of the hibachi dinner experience that sets Oki's apart from similar restaurants. Soup and salad come with the hibachi entrees. The meal starts with soup. (Actually a round of Mai Tai's for everyone, but we're talking food here). Oki's soup appetizer has a solidly flavored broth and doesn't taste watery. It comes with crunchy noodles and slices mushrooms, and when combined with the flavored broth is much better than the competition. Next comes the salad. The ginger dressing that they use on the salad is to die for. Amy is not as big a fan of it as I am, but I absolutely love it. When cooking at home, it's easy to overdo things that call for ginger. Sometimes even the called for amount is too much for me, but there's something about the ginger dressing here that is different. It doesn't have that trademark ginger taste to it, and I would bottle the stuff to use at home if I could.
The cooking show is similar to others featuring flying shrimp tails and a fiery onion volcano. This time I got the hibachi steak, and Amy got the hibachi chicken. We usually pick and share, so I ordered my steak an agreeable medium instead of medium rare. On reflection, Amy recommended going with the medium rare instead of medium. They tend to err on the slightly more well done side. So if you're on the fence, go with the lighter temperature and you'll get it the way you want. With the entrees making their way from the grill top to the plates is the perfect time to mention the dipping sauces for the meat. Again, typical of many hibachi style places, everyone gets two small trays with dipping sauces. One of the sauces is a ginger sauce, and the other is a spicy mustard sauce. Similar to the dressing on the salads, the dipping sauces at Oki's are fantastic. I love them, and again, would bottle them up for usage at home anytime. The spicy mustard sauce has just enough kick to it without being really spicy. The ginger sauce is a mix of ginger that doesn't over power and mixes very well with the food. The sauces represent for me exactly what sets Oki's apart from other hibachi places. What it all comes down to is taste, and they nail it.
Oki's is quite large in size, and is able to handle some quite substantial crowds on weekends. We've never had to wait long for a table regardless of party size.
We usually reserve Oki's for special occasions, as it's not the cheapest option out there for a meal. Our dinner for two with an entree for free (and some alcoholic beverages) still came to about $88. Gratuity included with most checks, so be careful you don't double up on the tip. Oki's is great for a date, the cooking entertainment can distract if things aren't going well - but it can make for a great all around experience if things are going swimmingly.