I first came across Benihana during a work trip to the US a few years ago, but I’d never had a chance to visit. Then there was the infamous ‘Beni-f*****g-hana’ scene in 2013’s The Wolf of Wall Street where DiCaprio’s Jordan Belfort declares war on the restaurant chain. I love that film, and that scene in particular had always stuck with me. So when I was invited to review the Chelsea venue, I was intrigued and excited to see what all the fuss had been about for so many years.
Benihana is a Teppanyaki restaurant with a number of locations around the world. Rocky ‘Hiroaki’ Aoki opened the first Benihana restaurant in 1964 in New York City. It’s largely known for the exciting spectacle of the chefs cooking fresh meat and fish right in front of diners with knives, eggs and all sorts being thrown in the air and food being (purposefully!) set on fire!
It attracts a mixed crowd – when we were there, the clientele was largely families with kids entertained by the performance of the cooking, and young couples looking to impress on (first?) dates.
The menu at Benihana is made up of Sushi dishes, Sashimi dishes, ‘Traditional Hibachi Dinners’ (established in 1964) and ‘Speciality Dinners’. The Hibachi and Speciality Dinners are served with Onion Soup, Salad with Ginger Dressing, Hibachi Vegetables, Prawn Appetiser and Steamed Rice.
We didn’t actually choose our dishes during our visit which was quite unusual for a review, but it was nice to be surprised with what we would be served! We took a seat around the grill and started with drinks (a passion fruit mojito and a saki-based cocktail) and after our onion soup, we tucked into a Nigiri Sushi selection including eel which was the first time I’d tried it in this form – I really enjoyed it!
We were then served a number of different meats which were prepared in front of us on the grill – the chef was really entertaining and had a great sense of humour. This is what Benihana is all about!
All of the meat was beautifully cooked to order and we tried prawns, beef and chicken, served with egg fried rice also prepared on the grill. The steak was incredibly high quality, juicy and tasty, a personal favourite for me.
Just when we thought we would burst, we were brought a dessert to share – an strawberry arctic roll-esque beauty which took me back to my childhood. I can’t remember the last time I had an arctic roll!
Overall I thought the quality of the food was excellent and was cooked beautifully on the grill in front of us. The service was also excellent. For me, the only downside was the layout of the venue. This might sound like a weird one, but I felt like there was so much open space that the experience felt a bit less personal – Benihana is clearly a very big and well oiled machine globally, and it felt like this transferred to the restaurant itself. When you walk into the venue, the bar area is vast, you feel like you’re walking into a club rather than a restaurant. I would have much preferred a smaller cosier venue where I could have experienced the sights and smells of the cooking across all of the tables in the restaurant. But that’s just a personal preference, I know plenty of people who welcome open spaces and would probably feel claustrophobic in my ideal dining scenario.
It’s a great place to take the family for a fun night out – if you’re visiting London for the weekend I’d recommend it as something entertaining to try. My tip would be to chat to the chef – the more involved you get, the more enjoyable it will be. It’s not one for wallflowers who want a quiet ‘one to one’ dinner!
You can find out more about Benihana on their website here.
I was invited to review Benihana but did not receive any payment. All views are my own.