Tsubaki Japanese Hibachi Grill and Sushi Bar has been consistently providing delicious Asian cuisine to Lufkin, for a price, since February 2015.
I wanted to try them out for their fifth anniversary to see how things have changed. The menu has changed some, but overall the quality is still the same.
Tsubaki is not cheap, but they are worth the price tag. The sheer magnitude of the menu is one testament to the skill of the kitchen, and everything we tried was pretty much fabulous.
When you walk through the door, you have the option to sit in the hibachi section and have your food cooked in a wonderful display before you or to sit in a quieter section of the restaurant without the hibachi menu choices.
Tsubaki also has a rotating specials menu you see when you walk through the door. My husband and I chose to try the Tex Mex Jalapeño appetizer from the specials menu and the Yakitori chicken, Nigiri Sampler, Red Lobster Roll and Shrimp Yaki Soba from the main menu.
The TexMex Jalapeño appetizer was enjoyable. The spicy jalapeño mayo sauce was complemented by the sweeter red sauce and cream cheese. However, the sauce is not always evenly distributed, and the bites that go without are disappointing. The sweetness of this appetizer helped round out the savory, deep tones of the rest of our meal, but I thought it seemed like a better finishing dish than a starter.
The skewered Yakitori chicken and vegetables covered in teriyaki sauce was delicious. The chicken and veggies are well cooked, but I thought the chicken could have been better seasoned or cut into smaller portions that absorbed more of the sauce. The teriyaki sauce was a good choice for the selection of vegetables, but I thought it could have used another flavor to give it an extra kick.
The Nigiri Sampler also did a wonderful job, especially compared to other restaurants’ iterations. The tuna’s shining quality was that its salt levels were much more balanced. The crab also was balanced — not spectacular but not overwhelming. The white fish had the biggest flavor overall, one that really jumped out at you. The shrimp was great with an especially rich flavor, and from the next dish we had, it is evident that shrimp is something Tsubaki excels at. The salmon was good but was probably the Nigiri Sampler’s lowest point. The initial impact was good but the overall flavor fell short.
The Shrimp Yaki Soba was the first main dish we tried. The Japanese-style pan fried noodle with shrimp and veggies was light and lovely. The shrimp was decidedly delicious. It was well cooked with a beautiful crisp and tone. The soba noodle was especially well done. It absorbed the flavor of the shrimp and made for a superb ingredient vehicle.
The real gem of the meal, however, was the Red Lobster Roll. This roll is expensive. However, it is scrumptious. Lobster tempura, avocado, lettuce, asparagus and lobster salad tobiko is wrapped in soy paper and covered in spicy mayo and eel sauce. It was quite a different roll with a powerfully bold flavor. I was wary of how the stark flavor of lobster would translate in a sushi roll, but Tsubaki did well. The tempura and lettuce provide a satisfying crunch, and the lighter veggies help balance out the dark tone.
Overall, Tsubaki is still doing quite well at providing quality food and relatively affordable prices. It’s a great stop for a dolled-up date or a nice lunch.
Tsubaki is at 2301 S. First St. in Lufkin. They are open from 11 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday with a break from 2:30-4:30 p.m., 11 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Sunday.