Benihana, A Teppanyaki Restaurant In Manhattan Was So Different From Authentic Japanese Teppanyaki

(Japanese follows. / 日本語は以下に続く)

We saw Leonard DiCaprio's new movie called Wolf of Wall Street yesterday and the movie made my husband want to go to Benihana, a Japanese teppanyaki restaurant.
He made a reservation for lunch today and we tried the teppanyaki.

About Benihana;
Benihana, a Japanese teppanyaki restaurant founded back in 1964 by Rocky Aoki when he's 25 years old in Manhattan.
However, the original Benihana started as a sweet shop in Nihonbashi, Tokyo in 1937.
After WWII, they opened a restaurant Benihana and it was a big success so they started running a Benihana chain.

My husband loves one of the teppanyaki places  in Tokyo where he always says he wants to go back.
We didn't expect from the first Benihana would be the same as it's not run by or served by Japanese employees.
But more than I thought, it's a totally different "style" of teppanyaki here in Manhattan.

He booked a table for us at 1PM and the restaurant happened to be the original one in the states which is on West 56th.
We're a couple of minutes late when we got there but they didn't seem to care about it.
When my husband said reservation name, a waitress said, "What name again?" and I thought it's a bit rude of her to say that.
And she asked again how many of us is coming, which she could have known via reservation format.
It's not that busy at the first floor where is NOT a teppanyaki place, it's like a diner so that when you place an order, they'll bring you the plates.
We're told to wait at the sofa for a bit, yet as the reservation was made yesterday and the place didn't look that busy at all, we had no idea what we're waiting for.

The stairs on the left will take you to the teppanyaki floor.

The stairs.

Rocky Aoki

We're seated at a table for 8 people.
I thought they'd serve us plates whenever we're ready, but I was wrong.
They never started cooking till the table would be filled with 8 persons.
This also means, unless you book a table for a group of 8 or get a private room, you'll be seating with strangers.

All the employees were Chinese, Korean, Thai, Mexican, Mexican, and Indian so there's no single Japanese person working there (as far as I saw).

We ordered our lunch at 1:10PM but as I mentioned, the "show" wouldn't start till every single person at the teppanyaki table (a table holds a big and flat griddle in the center) sets own order, so we didn't get anything for a while except water.

It's so American that they leave a paper cover on the top of the straw.

I ordered Spicy Hibachi Chicken and my husband ordered Fillet Mignon and each of us ordered diet soda, however, the Chinese waitress didn't give me diet and provided me regular. 

I didn't know about the upgrade about the fried rice, but my husband somehow knew that it can be added chicken for 1 dollar more, so when a different waiter came to serve us water, my husband asked him about the upgrading the rice.

1:10PM --- We ordered our food.
1:35PM --- Salad was served.
1:45PM --- The chef came and started cooking.

This is the salad.
When a waitress served salad, which was more like sliding to each of us from the other side, the bottom of the bowl had dressing and it ruined my napkin but she didn't give me new napkin. (Why!?)
When the salad was served to everyone at the table, a girl who was sitting across from me had trouble using chopsticks even though her mom was trying to teach her.
And I so wished that the bag of the chopsticks had instruction how to hold and use chopsticks with images on.

The chef started introducing himself and said "arigato (thank you in Japanese)" many times, however, whatever he said in English was hard to understand as he's got a very strong accent that I couldn't figure of which area or country he's from.

First, he stared with vegetables.

This is called "Volcano" and you can see steam coming out from center of the onion.

To my surprise, the chef served rice first, which is totally opposite what I'm used to.
And the rice was poured into a rice bowl and he slapped the surface so that the rice was all squeezed and tight.

Sauteed zucchini and onion.

When he was preparing rice and vegetables, he kept saying, "It's Japanese Pepsi" while using soy sauce.
However, it's not funny to me at all as he used the line so many times in a short time.

This is a pile of mushrooms served sort of over the sauteed veggies with oil.

This is my Spicy Hibachi Chicken.
The chef asked me how spicy I'd like it, so I replied, "Very spicy, please" and he poured a lot of hot sauce, but as I like spicy food, it didn't burn my tongue but it had a good spiciness and flavor.

The chef put the chicken over the veggies and mushrooms, so again, they didn't seem care how it looks on the plate or they didn't even intend to create an art on the plate with foods.
To summarize,  a strange accent chef cooking in front of you and serving the foods on your plate without a sense of art.

What good about going to restaurants in the states, whenever I see the menu with chicken, 99% of the time, it's white meat unless it says "thigh meat."
In Japan, it only says chicken and doesn't say the part of the meat.
And more, if you ask the waiter/waitress what part of the meat, they don't even know the difference between dark meat and white meat.

While everyone was enjoying the meal, the chef started cleaning the iron plate.
I understand that the grease and dirt need to be cleaned off when it's hot, but I felt a little bit awkward as all the steams and bubbles were spreading out from the griddle as there's no plastic wall around the hotplate.

Fork had "Benihana" logo on the back.

Japanese teppanyaki;
If you order a course in Japan, rice always comes after the main and usually it comes with miso soup.
And the rice in a rice bowl is softly served.
The chefs decorate the plate when they serve as if they're making an art on the individual plate for the customers.

Benihana teppanyaki;
Rice came first and the rice is squeezed in to a rice bowl and served flat surface.
The chef threw the foods on the plate without thinking the balance or the beauty of the foods on a plate.
Like the problem we had, I highly recommend:
(1) You repeat the type of drink (diet or regular).
(2) You reconfirm the order you made with another waiter/waitress again as the one you ordered first may not offer you a special menu or upgrade for the rice.

アメリカで初の店舗となる、マンハッタン West 56st へ。


(1) 8人で行ってテーブルを独占する、もしくは
(2) 個室を予約する












Benihana / 紅花
47 West 56th street New York, NY 10019

*Reservation recommended.

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