We love a good teppanyaki, so when we saw a deal for a Japanese teppanyaki eight course meal at a discounted rate we almost fell over ourselves to book this. £18 for 8 courses, not bad – well so it seemed…
We walked in Benihana, located on a side street in Piccadilly and were daunted by the size of the room. The restaurant is one room with a sloping stairway leading up to the dining area and has tables shaped as perfect squares replicating the shape of the room with space in the centre for the Japanese chefs to cook in front of diners. Our coats were taken by the polite Japanese waiters and we were shown to one of the large square dining areas which we were sharing with another family.
They put people together based on how far they are in the meal so that when the chefs are needed, they can serve a number of diners instead of jumping between tables ad hoc. The kitchen is at the back of the large room which a large hatch so diners can see chefs moving in and out.
Once seated we ordered the eight course set menu and also ordered the tasting set saki. The tasting saki had five shots of sake some hot and cold to understand the complex flavours. That was one of the best bits of the meal. We first were served miso soup which had a nice delicate flavour with the ubiquitous tofu and seaweed floating around. My only criticism to this very simple dish was that it was not hot enough and as I said this dish is so simple it is hard to get wrong.
We were then served a Japanese salad made up of lettuce, onions and tomatoes with a creamy pink sauce; we were not quite sure what was in it but it was nice. The salad was a bit pathetic as very very simple aka lettuce and came out with the sushi. Two of the sushi were vegetable makis and one Californian roll; all were fresh although again very simple (you can see the theme here).
For main course we did eventually have a choice; chicken, beef or vegetables. One of us ordered the beef and the other the chicken. At this point the Japanese teppanyaki waiter came into the square, which had a grill in its centre. He chopped onion, mushrooms and stirred in bean sprouts and peppers. While this was going on he brought out the meat from under the table (I have to say this did worry me a little 1. How long had it been there 2. Was it cool down there 3. What OTHER things were down there). He then proceeded to cook the meat (separately on same grill) and poured over dark soy sauce at the last moment. It smelled delicious but lacked the showmanship of other teppanyaki’s we have been too. Finally he cracked an egg and poured a little over the vegetables to combine. This was served with rice which was plain rice – obviously not flavoured, well , um, just simple.
At other teppanyaki’s that we have been too, we have the chef’s talk to you whilst demonstrating their knife skills and throw the occasional flame from the pan. There was non of this, not even a word from the chef who seemed more keen on getting the whole dish over and done with so he could move on to the next.
At this point we ordered a small pot of sake from our favourite we had liked from our shots. Feeling a little light headed our desserts came out. This was a chocolate brownie square, served with some vanilla (ok, I won’t mention the simplicity again).
The brownie was very dense and sticky. I found it difficult to eat as it stuck like glue to the roof of my mouth. We swiftly asked for the bill.
To summarise; the food was nice and well presented but (and this is a big but) it lacked showmanship, quality and was disappointing as we expected a real eight course menu. This eight course menu included the stir fried vegetables, rice and small amounts of other dishes. On the whole we feel that Sex Drugs and Bacon Rolls ought to give Benihana:
Food Atmosphere Service