Friday 18 July 2014

Restaurant review: Benihana

Ever since I saw the "ducky tie" episode of How I Met Your Mother, where Barney makes a bet with his friends that he can perform all the techniques of teppanyaki cooking - culminating in a routine where the chef flips a shrimp and catches it in his pocket - I've wanted to go to a restaurant like that. I'd heard of Benihana in London and knew it offered the same kind of "performance", so when I had the chance to go with a friend who likes Asian food (unlike my boyfriend, who does not) I decided to go.

Each table has its own cooking station where the chef comes over and cooks your dinner in front of you, occasionally producing huge flames which is fun. The tables are quite high though and the chairs quite low; as I am short the table came up to my chest which made eating a little uncomfortable.

It obviously doesn't make sense to have a chef per couple so I didn't mind when we were seated at a table for 6 and told we would be joined by other people. However, our reservation was for 7; two people arrived at 7.30 and two more arrived at 8 and it was only at quarter past 8 that the chef arrived and started cooking. We had had two of our seven courses in the time that we were waiting but only a watery onion soup and a small side salad so waiting an hour and a quarter for any 'real' food was making me quite hungry. Also, I was a little early and my friend was a little late but the waiter did not come to take a drinks order when I sat down and left me sitting there for 15 minutes without so much as a glass of water.

For the other courses we were asked to choose two items from either steak, chicken, prawn or salmon (though on the website it definitely said three). We watched the chef chop, season and flash fry them; we were also served beansprouts and fried rice - we watched the chef make an omlette, chop it up and add it to the rice for instance. So I can't argue with the freshness of the dishes - but what was a little strange was that everything was served separately. So I ate my prawns first, then I had a small bowl of rice, which I had almost finished by the time the chicken was cooked, and when I had finished my chicken I received a pile of beansprouts on my plate. Perhaps this is the way things are supposed to be done when you eat this kind of meal but to me it felt quite 'bitty' and even though I ate a reasonable amount of food, the way it had been spread out meant I still felt quite hungry afterwards! 

The wine list is quite expensive - the cheapest glass I could see on there was £7.25 and that was for 175ml, not even 250ml. However, we did manage to score ourselves a free glass of wine with the meal after enquiring about a special offer I'd seen online.

Overall I wasn't especially impressed by the food and I can imagine that to some the cooking style would seem overly theatrical or cheesy but it was fun to do something a bit different, though I don't think I would bother again.

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