Theatre. Love it or hate it, there’s something fascinating about making an over-exaggeration of all things mundane and great even greater. From the little things that happen daily – travels, work, people we meet, deals we secure – it’s always fun to make a song and dance about what makes life, well, LIFE. Even food. And at Benihana, that’s exactly what they do.
I mean, they sure know how to make a grand entrance. HELLO! HOW DO YOU DO?! I’M FINE, THANK YOU!
But Benihana’s roots is well worth making a song and dance about. It’s after all, a classic success story. Founded by master adventurer and daredevil Rocky Aoki (aka father to DJ Steve and that hottie Devon from the Fast & Furious films, and “the Richard Branson” of the restaurant world), Benihana was but a dream built on hard work and a soft-serve ice cream truck. 50 years on, the legacy lives through over 70 restaurants all over the world and over 100 million meals served.
Benihana on the Kings Road is one of two in London. Don’t be fooled by the small door, there’s a 100-seater restaurant waiting at the end of the spiral staircase.
There’s also a private dining area which is a celebrity favourite. Guys, the bums of Brangelina, Kate Moss, and all other A-list high flyers have sat in those chairs. The area sits 12, with a private reception, servers and chef.
There’s also an area called Rocky’s Room where you can hold bigger parties. It’s an indoor barbecue party, woohoo!
Whilst waiting at the foyer (and awkwardly inwardly smiling about the massive welcome screen), we had some pornstar martinis. I met Dieter Kemp, the man behind Benihana’s marketing. It was rather refreshing to have met someone who knew the restaurant, the founder and the history, like the back of his hand.
FUN FACT: All of the Benihana restaurants are supplied with plates showcasing the restaurant’s logo of the safflower (which translates to the resto’s name in Japanese). Each plate is handcrafted and imported from Japan.
Warmly welcomed, we were brought to our table and offered a nice Spanish grenache. I like dry rose wine with grilled stuff and I thought this was a good match for all the food we were about to be served.
To start, a bowl of onion soup which has been a classic recipe for eons and a simple side salad with Japanese dressing.
And a side of tuna and salmon nigiri and an unagi roll. I wasn’t too keen on the sushi, but probably because I was prepping myself for teppanyaki feast that was about to blow.
Now, I mentioned before there’s something about eating at Japanese sushi bar counters that’s reminds me of a theatre. For teppanyaki tables, you get a big bright musical. With an encore.
This is Luke, who was our chef for the night. He’s entertaining and engaging and he has some mad tricks up his sleeve, including a volcanic onion which turned up the heat. He definitely made the meal a fun and funny one, and I was really quite pleased with his antics.
Our feast consisted of prawn and mushrooms, black cod in miso, chicken and beef fillet. Our table chef Luke made everything seem so easy to prep, and fun to watch.
Luke is definitely a rice-ing star in the teppanyaki world. Haha!
Serious teppanyaki feasting.
My favourites were the black cod in miso, which I thought was seriously good albeit slightly sweeter than how I’d like it, and the fillet of steak, which was so tender juicy good. I was really surprised at how good these two were cooked, I’d definitely come back for more!
Verdict on Benihana
The theatrical cooking of our food was quite an experience and I suppose this is why many families and groups come to Benihana over the years. The novelty of having someone cook your food by your eyes – with tricks – is still a treat. Some may raise eyebrows on this, but if you’re the type of person who lives for a laugh (and come on, who wants to be miserable?!) then it’s a nice place to go to.
Foodwise, I think the strength of Benihana lies on the very heart of the restaurant – the teppanyaki grill. The stuff we’ve eaten were quite good particularly the cod in miso and beef fillet. Price is quite affordable for the amount of food you get. I suggest you bring a bunch of mates in for a casual laugh. Better yet, bring your family!
Have you been to Benihana? Do you like teppanyaki?