Know what makes a great couple? A military town with tons of Asian restaurants. Why? Well, in my humble opinion it's the best of both worlds.
In Warner Robins, Dai-Ichi Japanese Steakhouse, since its renovation, has really become a watering hole for the lunchtime crowd. It really doesn't quiet down until after 1:30 p.m. during the week, but don't let its location on Russell Parkway fool you. It's always busy driving along that stretch of the International City.
A few of us from the paper recently enjoyed a delicious meal. There were rave reviews of the house fried rice - my personal favorite. Becky, our local police reporter, joined me for a nice spread of appetizers, hibachi chicken, soup, vegetables and chicken yakisoba, and all for about $20.
I've had the bento meals at Zen Restaurant on the other side of town on Watson Boulevard, also under the same ownership as Dai-Ichi. Both locations are fabulous. You won't leave hungry at either place.
We enjoyed our vegetables, which were overflowing on my plate of yakisoba, your basic fried noodle dish in Japanese cuisine. It's not hidden with soy sauce or monosodium glutamate for flavoring, and it makes a nice, light midday meal. I enjoyed a little bit of everything: cabbage, carrots, broccoli, squash, zuccini and the list goes on.
We ordered appetizers of gyoza, which could also be called potstickers or dumplings. You may get them fried or steamed, filled with vegetables, shrimp, pork or beef. These come with a side of light soy sauce. Perfect.
Spring rolls also complemented our meal. They arrived hot, filled with sliced veggies that melted in our mouths. Egg rolls are common in Asian fare. They may be called different names, but the trick is to roll them perfectly and cook them fast so they come out crispy. No one wants a soggy spring roll. I tend to overfill my egg rolls (called lumpia in Filipino dishes), so I still haven't perfected the technique.
Many meals at Dai-Ichi come with soup, a clear seafood broth with what looks like dried crab, scallions and crispy rice. It's also very light and doesn't leave an aftertaste.
There are dozens of choices on the menu, from appetizers, soups and salads, to noodles, rice and meats and seafood.
I love this restaurant and its sister business, Zen. The waitresses always dress in traditional kimono and are as friendly as any place I've ever dined. At Dai-Ichi, a grill faces nearby booths where patrons can watch their food being prepared.
It's a little noisy at times, but only because of the fast pace of your food being cooked, wait staff walking back and forth, the cash register ringing nearby and constant conversation.
It's busy - and deservedly so.
Dai-Ichi Japanese Steakhouse
733 Russell Parkway, Warner Robins
Three and a half stars
Hours: Lunch: 11 a.m.-2 p.m. Monday-Friday; dinner: 4:30 p.m.-10 p.m. Monday-Thursday and 4:30 p.m.-11 p.m. Friday and Saturday
Price range: $2.95-$20
Reservations: Yes, if desired
Children's menu: Yes
Vegetarian selections: Yes
Noise level: Moderate
Wheelchair accessible: Yes
Latest health code rating: 100