THE MOM SAYS
Growing up on New York State's Long Island, I was right in the cradle of the Japanese-steakhouse-as-dining-entertainment phenomenon (which started in the 1960s but really caught fire in the '70s), but for some reason my parents never took us to one.
Well, after finally trying Benihana with my family, I can honestly say I've got something else to be miffed at my parents about. Our dinner was flat-out fantastic: It was two hours of slow eating, some new and delicious tastes, lots of good conversation and my kids ate all their vegetables. What's not to love?
We went on a weeknight and were seated right away without a reservation. Most tables feature eight seats around one teppan grill, so you usually end up sharing the table with another dining party. But that wasn't intrusive on our own conversation.
The meal goes in slow-paced phases: First a light onion soup and a well-chilled salad with ginger dressing (that had a tart, granular texture). The show begins when your table's chef shows up and starts juggling knives, dinging spice cans, flamboyantly dicing meats and vegetables and otherwise giving young boys very questionable ideas about how to prepare a meal.
And yet I have no objections because my son ate his zucchini.
My daughter and I split the monthly special of filet mignon and chicken ($42, a price that includes everything except drinks). When we go back (and we will), I'll probably just get the filet, because I barely touched the chicken (not that it wasn't tasty, but the filet was that much better). My husband had the Hibachi Tuna Steak ($22.60, also all-inclusive) which was melt-in-your-mouth great.
Lots of people were flashing birthday certificates, which they got from signing up for The Chef's Table program. It's a popular incentive for patrons ages 13 and older and earns you $30 off your bill and a birthday serenade in Japanese (you should sign up at least a month in advance to get your certificate e-mailed to you in time).
The service was fantastic, not the least bit cheesy or overbearing for a restaurant that relies so heavily on entertainment as part of its concept. And finally, the bathrooms were very Zen-garden lovely. All in all, a great meal and well worth the price.
THE KID SAYS
Before we went to Benihana, I was expecting I would have to order my food and it would be delivered to my table like any other restaurant, but instead what was delivered was a chef with a cart with everything he needed to cook right at our table. The table had a big, flat metal grill in the middle, and we sat around it.
For the kid's meal, I had to order either soup or salad first. I ordered the salad but I didn't like the dressing. It was a little too sweet in a bitter way. But I tried my dad's soup, my mom's soup and my sister's soup. I ate it all and I still wanted more. It's a very hard taste to explain. It was an onion soup, but it tasted mellow for an onion soup, and I really liked it.
For a drink I got a fruit punch from the kid's menu ($3.25), and I don't even know the fruits it had in it, but it was very good. I think there was strawberry in it.
For my meal, I got shrimp and steak from the kid's menu ($13.25). The shrimp is amazing. The steak I ordered medium rare for my first time. I was absolutely amazed. I think it was the best way to start ordering steak medium rare because it was juicy, tender and easy to chew, and I should know because my braces were just tightened again.
The service was amazing. Our chef Yoshi was really cool. Out of four cracked eggs, he made the shape of a chicken on the grill and what I thought was an egg, but he turned it into the chicken's wing and put it on the chicken. And he made a heart out of rice, put his spatula under it and made it beat. I also thought it was really cool the way he could spin the spatula and the knife.
The bathroom was very clean, normal, casual, but probably not big enough for a lot of people.
I would like to go back now. Hint hint.
8781 Lyra Dr.,
Polaris Fashion Place
Price: Entrees served at the teppan table include soup, salad, shrimp appetizer, steamed rice and tea, $17.60-$36.60; kids entrees include soup or salad, shrimp appetizer, steamed rice and ice cream, $9.25-$13.25.
Hours: 11:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m. and 5-9:30 p.m. Monday-Thursday, 11:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m. and 5-10 p.m. Friday, 12-10 p.m. Saturday, 12-9 p.m. Sunday