Japan Express is literally the definition of “hole in the wall” and “hidden gem”. You may have seen their sign that reads “Japan Express” towering over Aloma Avenue. Although Japan Express doesn’t reside on Park Ave, they’re located in Winter Park and are a must visit for anyone who enjoys good hibachi. If you’re a fan of Japanese food or hibachi, you’ve probably been to Kobe’s or even frequent them. I refer to Japan Express, and I’m not alone in this among my peers, as a mini-Kobe. Located in a renovated McDonald’s they even offer drive through services. There are a ton of things to love about Japan Express, including its convenience and pricing which we will discuss in this food review.
Japan Express Has a Drive Through
Ahh, yes… Aside from my concerning love for food and a taste for hibachi, one of my favorite things about Japan Express is its convenience. I’m a bit of a stickler for making good time and Japan Express allows you to do just that. Once a McDonalds, Japan Express decided to utilize the drive through window when they moved in and renovated all those years ago. If you’re from the area, you probably remember the McDonalds I am referring to. It sat right across from the Aloma Cinema Grill and the Publix shopping center between Aloma & 436 and Aloma & Lakemont.
Despite being a Japanese restaurant, they fill your order very quick, usually in under five minutes, depending on how many people are ahead of you. Normally, I wouldn’t expect quality from any restaurant with a drive through. Let alone a Japanese restaurant that offers hibachi, that I believe, is the same quality as Kobe. So, the convenience is a huge factor in my overall opinions of Japan Express.
Japan Express Has Kobe Quality Hibachi
Yes, it’s true. In my opinion the hibachi from Japan Express is indistinguishable from Kobe. In a blind taste test, I wouldn’t know the difference. From the quality of the chicken and steak, which is extremely tender and flavorful, to the sides offered and the yum-yum (white) sauce. Everything is prepared the same way as Kobe. Unless they were preparing their food in an inherently different way; it’s all going to taste the same. The only thing that I can imagine having an issue with would be their protein. However, the chicken and steak served at Japan Express, whether it’s quality or cook time, is just as tender and flavorful as Kobe.
There is one thing that I’m not a fan of at Japan Express. Well, it’s not that I’m “not a fan” but you can find better sushi in this town. Japan Express’ sushi is just “okay”. There isn’t anything special there. Either way, I do not visit Japan Express for the sushi anyway. Some people love it, I don’t think it’s anything special. It is good in a pinch, but not what I would choose if I had the time and patience for a nice sushi dinner. Check out their hibachi menu here.
Bang for Your Buck
If there’s one thing that I enjoy more than making good time, it’s saving money. Yeah, I’m basically an old man trapped in a thirty-year-old body. Japan Express is extremely affordable, and their portions are a great size. Like Kobe, I usually leave with leftovers for the next day. Japan Express offers the same portions, if not more, but for about $12.00 if you order both steak and chicken from their hibachi dinner menu.
It’s almost unheard of to get that quality and amount of food for $12.00 anywhere, let alone a Japanese restaurant. My order is always the same; why ruin a good thing? I order the hibachi dinner with both steak and chicken and a side of white sauce. You’ll get your noodles or rice and your side of vegetables as well. If you can finish this dinner in one sitting, then hats off to you. I have sat down and polished off an entire hibachi dinner in one sitting, but it’s much nicer to save some for the next day, and it’ll still be just as good as the day before. Just don’t keep it in the microwave for too long.
I really think that you’ll be surprised with what they have to offer. If you’ve never had hibachi before, this is the perfect time to give it a shot. Between steak, chicken, and noodles you can’t go wrong. Make sure you order extra white sauce and maybe pick up a few spring rolls which are very good as well. If you enjoyed this review, check out my review on Garp & Fuss here. Make sure to check out Japan Express’ website here.
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