Tuesday, March 16, 2010


Now, it's not our normal style to review places that we've been to more than once. Normally, if we've been to a place before (regardless of location), I don't do a review. But, it has been several years since we've been to Benihana, and so much has changed.

My friend Dani was celebrating her birthday at the Benihana down in Montgomery County, so we drove down there (about half an hour). We were seated immediately (we had a reservation), and service was very good throughout the meal. Our chef, Javier, mentioned at one point that it was only his third day, but we all thought that he was joking, since he was very good at almost every trick.

Jonathan and I had the Chicken & Shrimp for Two combination, which was a fantastic deal. Just $35 and we each had a bowl of onion soup, a salad, a shrimp appetizer, a meal, and a choice of desserts. We had forgotten how relaxed of an atmosphere Benihana is. We've been going to other hibachi grills all over the place, but Benihana truly is different. The pace is much slower... it took almost an hour and a half, instead of the 45 minutes-to-an-hour that other hibachi grills do.

The soup was as good as I remember, but I must admit that we were both really hungry so we gulped it down pretty quickly. The dressing on the salads is so unique there, as well. Tasty. Then, he started cooking the zucchini and the onions, even though we'd get the zucchini first and the onions very last, which was interesting. Plus, when he went to do the volcano trick with the onions, he even added lava, which was a new trick to me.

Six of the seven of us had fried rice (which has gone up a LOT... now it's $3.25 extra per person), and Javier did a Pac-man trick that I hadn't seen before, so that was cool. The fried rice could have used more soy sauce (and there wasn't any on the table itself), but was still yummy like I remembered (although I won't lie to you, Jonathan makes some amazing fried rice!).

The shrimp, both in the appetizer and in our entree, were very plentiful, excellently cooked, and delightful in flavor. Add in the ginger-flavored dipping sauce and you have a winning combination. The chicken was a tad dry (I think it was just on there too long), but with the mustard sauce it was fine for the most part. Others at the table got scallops, steak, tofu, and even tuna. Everything looked delicious, and it was the first time I had witnessed someone order the tofu (interesting cooking process) and the tuna (lots of special vegetables cooked with it).

The weird part is how heavily they use sesame seeds now. I am quite sure that they were used sparingly if at all back in the 2001-2004 era. Now, they were used on EVERYTHING except the shrimp, the rice, and the onions! And not lightly, either. Chicken, steak, tuna, tofu, zucchini, all COVERED with sesame seeds these days. Crazy, eh? Don't get me wrong, it was still all very good, but quite the change.

Birthdays are celebrated in a lot of rambunctious noise now as well. Tambourines, drums, and rubbing a buddha's belly while blowing out a candle are all part of the chaos. I had some delicious strawberry ice cream (Breyer's, I'm pretty sure), and Jonathan had the rainbow sherbert (very good as well).

All in all, a good time. Quite a bit different, but still very good. And it was very relaxing to have a longer dinner than the normal hibachi places (probably why most you can still walk into, but you always need a reservation at Benihana).

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