Pros: Great food...Great Sushi Bar!
My First Benihana Experience
The first time I visited Benihana was just over a year ago. I really had no interest in eating there prior because I didn't know what sort of restaurant they were. Actually, I thought Benihana served Chinese Food, not Japanese Food. Little did I know, I'd eat there just ONE time and claim it to be my favorite!
I was asked to lunch by a co-worker and couldn't really say no because I had no other plans. I tried to change our designated eatery from Benihana to something a bit more familiar, to no avail. My co-worker exclaimed that she was in the mood for sushi and Benihana had the best.
I was lost for words. Had I just heard her say "sushi"? As in raw fish? As in something I never dreamed of eating willingly? She told me I needed to broaden my horizons and forced me along with her.
Before even approaching the thick wooden doors of Benihana, I smelled the aroma of chicken and garlic from outside. That, in itself, was an appetizer. After walking through the doors we approached 2 hostesses and were asked if we'd like to sit at a hibachi table or at the sushi bar. We decided to have a hot lunch, along with sushi on the side, so we decided to sit at the hibachi table.
As Japanese music played in the background, we were led to a big open room which contained about 14 hibachi grills, (also known as teppanyaki tables, these are where the chefs prepare the food). Each grill seats 8 people and here is one of the two complaints I have about Benihana. The Chef will not start preparing your food until most of the seats at the table are filled. So, in our case, since it was just a co-worker and myself, we had to wait for another party to show up. On the plus side, since this is such a great restaurant, it didn't take long. We were handed 3 menus, one sushi menu in which to write on, one lunch menu and one for dinner.
The lunch/dinner menus are vast, consisting of Beef Sashimi, Hibachi Steak, Shrimp, Scallops, Sesame Chicken, Calamari, Miso Soup, Cold Water Lobster Tail, Filet Mignon and Sake to name a few.
I chose the Light Lunch Combo and was able to choose 2 of 7 meats offered. I decided upon the shrimp and chicken, as did my co-worker. I glanced at the sushi menu and it looked like Greek to me. Our waitress explained to me that more than 50% of all sushi is cooked in some way, (steamed, broiled, fried). I decided to try the most westernized of all sushi: The Benihana Roll, (aka: the California roll). Simple enough, it's crab meat, avocado, cucumber and rice rolled up in a toasted seaweed sheet, commonly referred to as "Nori".
Our chef arrived about 5 minutes later pushing a cart loaded with raw meats and spices. Right before us all, he prepared our lunch, (I hear that during lunch, the chefs won't flip the knives and put on such a display. They reserve that more for dinners and parties). As the food was cooking on the hibachi, our sushi arrived. It was nicely displayed on Japanese wooden platters and after one bite, I was hooked. (For those out there who have never had sushi and have never seen/tasted wasabi...be careful with that stuff. Wasabi is a Japanese horseradish and it's extremely hot. I learned the hard way). As the Chef finished the hot foods, he placed them on the plates in front of each if us. The food was great, though the portions were a bit small for the price.
Since that visit, I have been back to Benihana atleast once per week. There is no doubt in my mind that this restaurant is tops.
Is Benihana a good restaurant for kids?
Yes, it's a great family restaurant. My 9 year-old son loves it. I can't think of any reason one shouldn't go to Benihana. It's great to dine there on a first date, alone (as I sometimes do), or better yet, with a whole group of people. Now that I'm a sushi fanatic, I've eaten at many sushi bars and Benihana is still the best in my book. The Chefs are nice and helpful and the food is always fresh. Prices are a bit much. I have found somewhat comparable sushi much cheaper before. Miso Soup is complimentary with all sushi orders, (atleast at the Benihana in downtown Houston, it is. You may have to check with your local Benihana).
Sample Menu w/ Prices
Light Lunch Combo...........$11.00
Shrimp Cocktail.................$ 6.00
Benihana Sushi Roll...........$ 4.50
Shrimp Yakisoba................$ 7.25
Steak & Chicken...............$21.25
Steak & Lobster................$29.75
Awarded American Taste Best of Show Gold Medal for Asian Cuisine for 1999 - 2000 given by the American Tasting Institute
Voted Most Popular Full-Service Restaurant three years in a row in the Annual Tastes of America Survey conducted by Restaurant & Institutions Magazine in 1985, 1988 and 1989.
Best of Show Taste Award presented by the American Tasting Institute in 1999
Voted "Best Japanese Restaurant/Sushi Bar" five years running by the readers of the Orange County Register in 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999 and 2000
(The above are only a fraction of the awards that Benihana has received).
"At Benihana, most dining experiences start off as meals and end up as parties. You are invited to eat in the kitchen at the teppanyaki tables and enjoy a fabulous full course meal prepared right in front of you. They serve healthy portions of chicken, squid, shrimp, lobster, steak and hand-picked vegetables."
"All of Benihana's chefs have the knowledge and experience to deliver a freshly prepared, flavorful meal with a whole lot of fun. After all, a party is not a party unless it ends up in the kitchen! No wonder, Benihana has been the restaurant for the '90s since the '60s."
For more information please visit Benihana's webiste at http://www.Benihana.com or visit one of their restaurants for a great dining experience!