I really wanted to take my friends to Mifune Dun for my recently discovered okonomiyaki (see my Japantown tour article), but Dave was afraid that I might be putting our friends over their limit in terms of unusual and unique food, so we ended up at Benihana in Japantown.
Although there’s a regular restaurant and bar area at Benihana, the chain is known for their Teppan Grill. That’s where you with at a rectangular table surrounding a large stainless steel grill. The waitress will take your order which includes an iceberg salad with a miso dressing, steamed or fried rice (the latter an extra charge), a vegetable dish, a grilled shrimp appetizer and your choice of various cuts of steak and types of seafood. Dave chose the filet mignon, and I chose Benihana’s signature Ocean Treasure which was lobster, scallops and shrimp.
Once your salad is complete, in rolls the grill chef with top hat and a cart of all the food necessary to prepare the meals for the table. This time, I was surprised that the chef began with the fried rice, which in my experience normally comes after the final meat/seafood preparation. The chef starts with scrambling eggs and small pieces of chicken and cuts them up to fried rice size. Onions are then grilled with kind of a mire poix mixture, and then comes the soy sauce and the rice, combined and fried and served in Japanese rice bowls.
Next, the Benihana chef places zucchini and sliced onions on the grill. While they are frying, shrimp is added on the side for the whole table’s appetizer. The chef creates a volcano with reducing sizes of onion and we all admire the smoke coming from it. Butter is melted into a soy sauce mixture. From there, the zucchini and onion are chopped and butter mixture and sesame seeds are added, and placed on each plate at the table. There’s enough of the butter mixture left to be added to the shrimp which is also added to our plates.
For some reason, the Benihana chef decided to make the seafood entrees first instead of the beef and chicken. The lobster was grilled and served in its shell. Scallops had a crispy fried edges, and the shrimp was similar to the appetizer served. Then, out comes the various cuts of meat, fried whole then cut into chopstick-size pieces.
Service is above average at Benihana, but it depends on who serves you. We’ve had from great to bad service. Benihana offers vanilla or green tea ice cream after your dinner, but we were too full to take advantage of it. I find green tea ice cream to be a pallet cleanser even at the end of a meal.