OPENING A RESTAURANT is always a challenge, so opening one with room for more than 100 guests and with 10 hibachi grills and a large cocktail lounge and sushi bar is a huge undertaking to say the least
Makoto Asian Hibachi Bistro in Goffstown is located in the plaza formerly occupied by Shaw’s. It took more than a year after Aloe Garden closed to install grills and equipment to building code standards.
Makoto was jammed Saturday night with families for hibachi seating and locals for booth, bar and table service. There were plenty of servers and chefs and waitstaff on site. But startup kinks for the recently opened restaurant were evident with many staffers trying to go in two directions at once.
Still, the crowds at the hibachis were entertained and happy — eight of the 10 grills were in use — meals and drinks did find their way to the proper tables, and the quality of the food made it a worthwhile dining experience.
Makoto seems to have spared no expense while setting up. Eight of the grills are in the main area of the restaurant; two are behind glass walls in a private party setting. The bar is large and central to all TVs and the kitchen, and serves to separate the utensil “clanking” and crowd noise from the hibachi side from the lineup of booths and tables on the south side of the building.
There are stone and glass designs and artwork throughout, and a terrific stone-sided fish pool at the front, complete with Buddha decorations, a spinning water wheel and greenery among the rocks and little mountains. The large goldfish have plenty of room — the rectangular pond is enclosed by masonry at least 10 feet long by about 5 feet across.
The Makoto menu is similarly huge, with dozens of selections in each section including sushi, hibachi grill, Japanese, Thai, noodles, rice and signature specialties.
We started with a couple of bowls of soup and a sushi appetizer — both were top-notch.
Dumpling Soup ($3.50, or $2.50 when substituted for the Miso soup that is standard with Hibachi orders) was a pleasingly light, clear broth with a couple of large, crispy dumplings and lots of diced vegetables. Similarly, the Tom Yum Soup (same price) featured two large shrimp among all the veggies, swimming in a spicy, standard Tom Yum broth.
The Sunomono appetizer ($9.95) brought a new take on sushi, with all of the fish and accompaniments served in a bowl. No rice or seaweed rolls, just a nice pile of salmon, tuna, white fish and shrimp, blended nicely with strips of cucumber in a ponzu sauce.
The double-duty waitstaff, combined with a very busy kitchen, led to a delay in ordering, and subsequent delivery of our appetizers and meals.
We enjoyed a cocktail while we waited, but had nearly finished that before even ordering our soup and apps. Then there was another 12 to 15 minutes before the apps got to us, so we ordered our entrees quickly. Even so, it took another 10 or 15 minutes before our entrees arrived.
Hibachi orders can be placed whether you are seated at a grill (eight seats each) or at the bar or the dining area.
We selected the Hibachi Steak and Chicken entree ($20.95). We had unknowingly substituted our specialty soup for the Miso soup that comes with hibachi orders. Also the salad that comes with it never materialized. However, out of compassion for the hard-working servers, we didn’t bother mentioning the absence. Besides, we had plenty of food in front of us. We’ll catch the salad next time.
On a high note the grilled steak and chicken pieces were as tender as can be.
The two-shrimp appetizer that accompanies hibachi orders was served with a large serving of grilled vegetables and similarly large helping of hibachi-grilled fried rice. This is a formidable dinner, so we took a good portion home.
The Blue Ocean ($20.95) dinner from the Wok & Grill Signatures menu was a nice selection of grilled shrimp and scallops alongside a hefty slab of salmon steak, all drizzled with a tasty butter-garlic teriyaki sauce, accompanied by white rice.
There is plenty to offer at Makoto. Children always enjoy the hibachi antics of the chefs, and the restaurant has sparkling new equipment at every turn. There are spacious areas all around the grills for visiting fellow diners, and the private party room is large and fully enclosed from the rest of the eatery. TVs (no sound) are strategically placed for bar patrons and diners in the booths.
Makoto also has an extensive cocktail list, and has taken care to list the brand names used in all the various Asian-restaurant concoctions. Many patrons care about the brand of liquor that is in their favorite drink, so this detail is a valuable service. The bar prices are directly in line with most other quality Asian bistros.
With a year of construction, and now a few weeks of grand-opening jitters hopefully behind it, Makoto Hibachi should become an Asian bistro to be reckoned with. The owners’ investment in Goffstown is no small one; we’re betting they’ll see a big return.