As of three months ago, you could cross “hibachi place” off your list of things Hoboken lacked. Ayame has opened its doors in the location of the former Frozen Monkey Café on Washington Street, serving up fun-filled hibachi dishes and high-quality sushi rolls, noodle bowls, and teriyaki plates.
The extensive menu includes dishes with steak, lobster, chicken, scallops, pork, crab, and beef – all of them filling and delicious.
Plus, there’s the fun factor. At a hibachi restaurant, the diners sit around a central stove on which a trained chef combines culinary skill with acrobatics to fry up your dinner before your eyes. He throws rice, noodles, meat, veggies, and sauces on the hot plate and doles out sizable portions, performing a few tricks all the while.
Chef Jason Chen tossed veggies in the air.
For the kids
Ayame is an average sized restaurant with several regular tables besides the hibachi stations. We brought our 9-month-old baby with us, because really, what else were we going to do with him on a Sunday night? The restaurant was more than accommodating. We pushed him up to the hibachi counter in a wooden high chair. The waiter promptly got him a cup with kids’ designs on it, full of water.
The restaurant, incidentally, has a kids’ hibachi menu for 12 and under, so you know they’re child-friendly. Prices range from $9.95 to $13.95. The kids get a shrimp starter, their choice of hibachi dishes (shrimp, chicken, shrimp, combo), and a scoop of ice cream at the end!
Before getting to the hibachi, we sampled the appetizers. They range from $3.95 to $9.75.
The beef Negimaki was probably one of the best appetizers I’ve ever had. Festooned in a sweet sauce, it was as tender as possible and filled with green onions. Six of them came on a plate, with crispy sweet-potato sticks in the middle.
We also tried some tempura vegetables, thick and fried in a batter that gave them a crispy outer layer. I enjoyed a hearty piece of broccoli tempura and saved my sweet potato and shrimp for later.
Manager Tom Yau, formerly of the renowned Peking Duck House in Chinatown, also brought out the Kani salad. It was soft shoots of imitation crab, and if you like spicy crab sushi rolls, you’ll enjoy the taste.
There’s a long list of hot and cold appetizers including spicy tuna dumplings and soft shell crab.
We also decided to try a sushi roll. Sushi restaurants all boast their volcano roll, the ingredients of which can vary slightly from restaurant to restaurant At Ayame the roll was huge, filling, and sweet, with spicy tuna on top, covering white fish, cream cheese, and a bit of a crunch. The roll was so rich that I only had two bites at the restaurant, but kept thinking about it later and promptly finished the rest of it that night. It’s only $10.95, a bargain for a volcano roll.
Rolls at Ayame range from $3.25 for peanut avocado to $13.75 for a Hoboken roll (blue fin toro, sweet potato, tobiko topped with scallop and jalapeno).
There’s also a list of teriyaki entries, serviced with rice, soup, and a salad. Those dinners run from $10.95 for tofu or vegetable teriyake to $22.95-$24.95 for lobster teriyaki or a combination including filet mignon, scallops, and shrimp.
One can order tempura dishes, from vegetable tempura to lobster tempura.
Want to try something else? They have a list of Japanese noodle dishes ($8.95-$13.95) including seafood udon/soba (shrimp, scallop, crab stick, fish cake, mixed vegetable in broth) and pork yaki (pork with mixed vegetables stir fried).
Donburi (rice bowls) run from $9.95 to $15.95 and can include chicken, vegetable, deep fried shrimp, and boiled eel over rice.
It was time for the main course, and chef Jason Chen didn’t disappoint. He poured fresh vegetables onto the stovetop and also tossed a few bits for my husband and I to try to catch in our mouths – although we failed. Next, he added noodles and rice to the stove, along with eggs and some sauces.
He lit the stove on fire and fried up the ingredients in order to combine it all into fried rice and lo mein. All the while, he was full of good cheer and made us laugh.
We had chosen the “Hoboken Combo,” which includes shrimp, calamari (squid), and steak. He poured the raw meat and seafood onto the hot plate next to fry it up.
Soon he scraped it all onto our plates and it was time to dig in. The dish of beef, seafood, vegetables, rice and noodles was sweet and tasty. Chen also stirred up some sauces for us, including a ginger sauce and a hot mustard sauce.
I’d had hibachi before a few years ago in Florida, and that visit didn’t fill me up or give me enough ingredients. Ayame does a great job of providing satisfying and healthful portions of veggies, meat, and other ingredients.
For dessert, Ayame offers ice cream (red bean, green tea, vanilla, chocolate, mango), tempura ice cream, tempura banana with ice cream, and tempura cheesecake. The fried ice cream is apparently quite popular.
We tried the tempura cheesecake ($6.95), which had quite a presentation: It was drizzled with chocolate sauce and topped with whipped cream, and it even had a few sprinkles. It was crispy and fried on the outside and creamy and cool on the inside.
The menu is extensive, so it’s worth checking out all of their dishes – including Chilean seabass hibachi, box lunches, and salads.
It might make a great place to bring a date. The food is high quality, it’s filling, and the hibachi is a fun touch.
The restaurant is open seven days a week, and it offers delivery.
Ayame is located at 526 Washington St. Call 201-222-8148 or 222-6248.