Benihana is a fairly well oiled machine, but be prepared to wait before you settle in for the show. I’ve been twice in the past few months and both times our party ended up waiting 20 and 45 minutes past our reservation time before we were seated, but given the juggling act of seating numerous parties at the same table (a single chef prepares the meals for the entire 8 person table at the same time) a slight delay is understandable and any potential diners should consider their table companions before showing up late. Once we got settled in, our party of four joined a much larger group of 12 (four at our grill/table and eight at the grill/table opposite), a server took our drink orders, quickly returned with drinks for the table and took our orders. And so begins our “5 course” meal.
For such a large restaurant, Benihana has surprisingly few chefs, but this is where the well-oiled machine excels. Food slowly trickled our way throughout the evening: the meal begins with a delicious mushroom soup in a savory broth followed by a delicious salad with ginger dressing. My only gripe here was that in the bustle my salad was removed before I finished, only to wait 15 minutes without food, before our chef arrived. When the chef did arrive, however, he had everything needed in his cart to prepare our fried rice, made from scratch, various sauces, a fried shrimp appetizer and our entrees. (It’s worth noting here that even though our chef was cooking for eight people, he was still able to accommodate for one diner’s gluten intolerance.)
For those who haven’t been to Benihana, the chef puts on an incredible show of with a razor sharp knife and spatula, slicing and dicing, tossing and flipping, banging out spices to a perfect beat with musical flair and lighting up the grill with their trademark volcanic onion and the aid of laser pointers and flashing lights. The food was perfectly cooked and considering the amount served over the five courses, a fairly decent value (running from low $20s for beef teriyaki to upper $40s for the chateaubriand cut of beef and a lobster tail). We finished off our meal with a wonderful green tea ice cream. Be prepared to clap and sing plenty of birthday wishes, our waitress said that nearly every table has someone celebrating a birthday (ours had two!)