Thursday, September 17, 2009

Benihana- Teppenyaki take two.

Benihana is renowned for teppenyaki. Every time I mention teppenyaki, without a doubt someone mentions Benihana. It seems to have a cult following and people just RAVE about the place. Obviously, I have been planning to come for a while so was very happy that the conference provided the opportunity for me to finally do teppenyaki Gold Coast Benihana style.

N.B. I promised that I would try very hard not compare Benihana to Kabuki (my most recent teppenyaki experience) but that proved very difficult to do!!

Benihana is located on level 3 of the Surfer's Paradise Mariott Resort and Spa. The layout is pretty standard for teppenyaki- Back to Back grills with about 8 people perched around each grill.

From the moment you step into Benihana, it is obvious the staff are there to cater for your every need. They are super friendly and attentive. This surprisingly lasts through the whole service- not that I expected anything less from the Mariott.

The menu is pretty standard- you can pick from the teppenyaki menu (ranging from about $45-$75) or you can go with the group menu for 2 or 3. I decided on the Land 'n' Sea option (scallops and fillet steak) whilst my pies (partners in eating) had a group option. All options come with sweet onion soup, prawn appetiser, vegies and fried rice. The drinks menu is very tempting. If you are feeling traditional, there is a list of Saki's to choose from, If you are a wino - the wine list is quite good, and for the experimentalist there are sake cocktails and straight cocktails galore to get you started.

One of my pie's and I choose the Lychee sakitini- a yummy concoction of lychee paradiso, sake, cranberry and fresh lychee. We both adore the drink and my pie orders the same again, whilst I order another Lychee flavoured cocktail which included mint, passionfruit, pineapple and was every bit as fresh and delicious as the first cocktail.

The onion soup is served to us which is quite frankly, quite bland. I would have preferred miso soup and I guess this also colours my vision of the soup, although if the soup was good- I would have been more than happy.

A prawn appetiser was served and this was just a simple grilled prawn that you could dip into the sauce that was provided.

Next up are the vegies. We get served zucchini with onion. Once again, no flavour explosions here but that is more than ok, given the nature of the dish. It was nice to have some fresh greens to eat along with the meat/seafood bonanza.

By this stage, the friendly chef had already started showing off some of his skills and he was impressive. Catching objects in his hat etc etc certainly did provide entertainment - esp for those who have never been to teppenyaki. The chef also did a great job of entertaining one of the children on our table.

One great thing about Benihana and all teppenyaki is getting to see the food cooked in front of you. It really is fun even if it does emphasize my own VERY inadequate knife skills. Next up, were the scallops for me, and a bit of lobster stolen from one of my pies. As you can see below, the scallops were fat and juicy(just the way I like them) but they were very plain. That being said, great quality scallops don't need dressing and these scallops were great quality. They were well cooked in most cases and only one or two were a little chewy at the end, which is amazing, given the quantity of scallops the chef was cooking.

The lobster tail certainly looked impressive when served but I did not have a big enough taste to really comment.
The fried rice was pretty standard and I felt that I probably would have preferred steamed rice, even though the service staff insist the fried rice is great.

All in all, I cannot say that there was anything particularly bad or wrong with the food but I was disappointed. The service was fantastic but the food lacked serious flair. Of everything I tasted, nothing was overwhelmingly fantastic and I guess I did expect fantasy food given the location, price and rave reviews. That being said It would be unfair not to mention (for a second time) the staff and our chef. They were fantastic. The service at Benihana is at an extremely high standard. The one thing that probably did save the food was the quality of the seafood which was also high.

I did compare notes with a colleague who had been to Benihana the night before. He has a Japanese wife and lived in Japan for a number of years so obviously is used to traditional Japanese food and is also hard to please. His summation of Benihana is something I thought was quite harsh but on reflection I feel it is probably very close to the mark. He suggested that"the food is not particularly Japanese, it was definitely edible ( I think that is going a bit far!!!!!) and the experience is good."

I am beginning to think I am too hard to please. Tell me - Have you been to Benihana? Let me know your experiences!!

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