Today we decided to visit Jo-To Japanese Steak House which is located at 905 Lithia Pinecrest Rd in Brandon. It is located in a shopping strip on the corner of Lithia Pinecrest Rd. and Lumsden Rd.
We called ahead about 45 minutes beforehand and made a reservation for 7:30pm. Upon arrival we walked into the front door and stood by the hostess desk for about 2 minutes and then noticed a sign behind us telling us to see the hostess in the bar? When we walked back to the bar, we were greeted quickly and seated right away.
Here are my observations during my visit to Jo-To Japanese Steak House:
The first word that came to my mind while looking around the restaurant was “Tired”. The room was outdated and old-looking. I felt like I was in a Japanese steak house dinner and not a professionally decorated restaurant. Perhaps many years ago it was the place, but it doesn’t look like the owners have spent a dime since opening day to maintain or upgrade the atmosphere. The lights were very bright like being in a department store.
The waitress station was classless with pink purple totes staring you in the face. There were two huge fire extinguishers mounted on the wall with no attempt to shield them from public view.
The seating arraignment was inconvenient in that it was a 270 degree booth. If anyone had to go to the restroom, half the table would have to get out of their seat to let the person out. Two out of the six people at the table commented about this setup.
The place just looked old and unprofessional.
The Hibachi grill experience
Bizarre is how I would sum up our Chef. Throughout the entire table side chef experience, our chef did an odd Japanese Pee Wee Herman style laugh every second or 3rd breath he took. Ok it was funny for the first 3 or 4 times, but the other 75 times was just plain annoying. Before he began to cook he turned on the overhead vent which sounded like a vacuum cleaner which we had to listen to the whole time he cooked.
One of the reasons people choose the Hibachi grill experience is to enjoy a show that the chef puts on while cooking your food. The Jo-To experience, well Not So Much. The chef made only 2 half-hearted attempts to do a trick. First he built a volcano with onion slices and commented about how big his wife was while he lit it on fire. Then he tried to toss an egg with his spatula and catch it, failing to complete his trick both times ending in a broken egg.
Throughout the cooking experience, the chef kept saying he didn’t know what he was doing. I think he was trying to be funny, but ironically he seemed to be telling the truth.
Several times while he was cooking, he used a scraper to clean burnt food off the grill flinging burnt food particles into my dipping sauce on two separate occasions.
The meal started with an onion soup. The soup was not bad in my opinion but my wife didn’t care for it, she said it didn’t have very much flavor.
After the soup came a small salad. Lettuce, carrots, and a cherry tomato submerged in a not so good dressing. I think the dressing was ginger based but was harsh and somewhat bitter, but edible.
When the chef came to the table, he poured for each of us three different dipping sauces. First sauce was pure soy. Second was a very salty soy based sauce. The 3rd was mayonnaise based sauce, pinkish in color. None of the dipping sauces where memorable except the second sauce because it was so exceedingly salty.
The chef first cooked three shrimp each for everyone at the table. The shrimp was fairly good but could have been much better with better dipping sauce choices.
While continuing to do his odd Pee Wee Herman laugh repeatedly he cooked his vegetable medley which consisted of zucchini, onion, and broccoli (more on the broccoli later). They were very salty and the broccoli was raw.
Then the chef warmed some rice on the grill. The only seasoning he used was soy sauce. Needless to say plain rice with a little soy sauce equals drab filler.
My steak was tender but laced with gristle, NOT fat, but gristle. The steak they gave me was, I estimate, around 4oz of with 3oz was edible. To be honest it kind of grossed me out. Nothing like a medium-rare steak laced with gristle.
Before going to Jo-To Japanese Steak House, My wife called and asked them if broccoli comes with the vegetable melody they cook at the table and the response she received was YES. When the waitress took our order at the table my wife then reconfirmed that broccoli comes with as part of the vegetable medley mix and the waitress said yes we can put broccoli in the mix. When the bill came they charged us an extra $4 for the broccoli that supposedly came with the vegetable medley according the person on the phone.
The total bill came to $48, which is on par for a Hibachi experience.
The phrases that come to mind as I recall my over all experience at Jo-To Japanese Steak house in Brandon Florida:
- worn out
- run down
- 80’s feel
- too bright
- not authentic
- vacuum cleaner sound
- bad value
Sorry Jo-To’s, but I did not enjoy my visit and I would not recommend it to my friends. There are much better Hibachi grill experiences to be had in the Brandon area for the same money.
Advice to the owner:
1. Find different chefs, at least replace the one I suffered through.
2. Dim the lights! Perhaps the room would lose some of the harshness.
3. Put a wall blocking the waitress area which would also block those atrocious fire extinguishers from the dinners view.
4. Hire a chef to develop better dipping sauces, salad dressing, and better seasonings for the the Hibachi chefs to utilize .
5. Have a host or hostess at the front door to great your guests as the walk in the front door.
6. Do something about those loud vacuum sounding vents/fans above the table. The sound really hinders the dining experience.
7. Teach your chefs some tricks and showmanship.
8. Paint the room a darker warmer color. The current color is atrocious!
9. The place is in need of a new management with experience in creating a fine dinning experience.