Benihana, the Florida-based Japanese restaurant chain founded in 1964, has announced its new chef specials. The restaurant will be featuring Hibachi Shrimp & Chicken for Two and Seafood Diablo. The former can be had for $37 and is enough to feed you and a companion; the latter is a single serving dish priced at $20.
Benihana’s monthly specials are a signature feature of the restaurant, whose tag line is “experience the original.” Sometimes specials are completely new creations and other times they are upgraded versions of current menu items. But if you like Japanese food prepared by a performance artist, it’s all good.
Hibachi Shrimp & Chicken for Two
The restaurant’s Hibachi Shrimp and Chicken special consists of two shrimp and chicken entrées with mushrooms and sesame seeds. They are served with Benihana onion soup, salad, vegetables, an appetizer, Japanese rice, and green tea. Guests can also choose from a selection of appropriate wines.
At first sight, the pictures provided by Benihana make this meal look absolutely delicious. Of course, you have to enjoy Hibachi-grilled shrimp if you’re going anywhere with this dish. We’re also not so sure about mushrooms and how well they’ll work with shrimp. The crunchy sesame seeds sound intriguing, though.
When you order this entrée you’ll also receive a selection of homemade dipping sauces. From our point of view, a dipping sauce can make or break grilled shrimp. Rest assured, Benihana always comes through on the dipping sauces. If you’re a fan of this restaurant, we recommend you give the Hibachi Shrimp & Chicken for Two a try.
The Seafood Diablo special is sort of a strange creature. Beginning with the name, it just doesn’t sound like something you’d find at a Japanese restaurant. According to Oxford Dictionaries, the word “diablo” is a Spanish word meaning “devil.” What that has to do with Japanese food, we’re not quite sure.
Nonetheless, the Seafood Diablo starts with shrimp, scallops, and calamari; the basics of any good Japanese seafood dish. Add to that some fresh vegetables, udon noodles, and Benihana’s homemade spicy sauce, and you have something to talk about. Aesthetically, the dish doesn’t look all that inviting, but the taste buds love it.
As for the wine, the restaurant recommends a Riesling from Washington known as Kung Fu Girl. It just gets stranger and stranger, doesn’t it? That being said, it is the kitschiness of the Benihana chain that makes it so popular with American diners. Why not carry the kitsch through to the wine selections?
About the Benihana Chain
One of the things that make the Benihana chain so famous is their world-renowned teppanyaki table. This table is almost a theater stage on which the restaurant’s chef will prepare your meal as you watch. But it’s more than just slicing, dicing, and grilling. It is cooking and a stage show all in one.
The typical Hibachi chef at Benihana can do things you’d never imagine. One of the favorite tricks is known as the “flaming onion” or “onion volcano”―a unique way of cooking onions by slicing and stacking them, filling the center with oil, and lighting the entire stack ablaze. It’s actually pretty impressive.
As you watch your entrée being prepared, you’ll start with an appetizer of Benihana onion soup. Trust us when we say you’ve never had such a good soup in your life. If you love onions, it is to die for. That’s followed by a delicate salad and, after your chef is done playing, the main course. Finish with a bit of sake to round out the evening.
The History of Benihana
The first Benihana restaurant opened in New York City in 1964. A 25-year-old entrepreneur named Rocky Aoki established the eatery with $10,000 he had saved from his work as an ice cream truck driver. Interestingly enough, Aoki was also a very good wrestler who qualified for the 1960 Japanese Olympic wrestling team, but he never attended the games.
Instead, the young man pursued his dream of owning his own restaurant: a restaurant that would combine good Japanese food with a theatrical presentation. The idea proved unpopular with customers until the New York Herald Tribune gave the restaurant a good review. The rest, as they say, is history.
Today, the company’s headquarters are located in the Miami suburb of Doral, Florida. The chain consists of 116 restaurants bearing the Benihana name, as well as two subsidiaries offering sushi and Japanese fusion cuisine. Mr. Aoki died in 2009, yet his vision for American Japanese dining lives on.
Benihana is certainly unique in the world of American franchise restaurants. If you’ve never been to one of their locations, we highly recommend it. There’s nothing quite like watching the incredibly skilled Hibachi chefs prepare your meal with a precision and flair you won’t find anywhere else. Who needs live music when you’ve got the onion volcano?