Restaurant Review: Benihana

Benihana is a chain of Japanese restaurants which originally became popular in the USA, more specifically originating in New York, in 1964. With 66 restaurants and 10 more franchises within the USA, they’re globally popular and known for their dining experiences.

Identified as one of the best West End restaurants by The Guardian, Benihana has three locations within the UK. I attended the St. Paul’s restaurant within the Leonardo Hotel. We arrived at 6.30pm, early enough for a quiet meal, yet still as we walked in you could hear the oo’s and ahh’s which only intrigued us even more. We were seated at a U-shaped table, leaving one end with a hibachi grill clear for our chef to join and cook for us.

Each of the main dinners is served with a few accompaniments/courses beforehand. The miso soup was light, yet rich and had deep notes. It was very flavourful and clearly fresh. You’re also served a variety of hibachi vegetables, which were prepared with a hint of a show! From a flaming onion volcano to having me catch food in my mouth. The chef made everyone at the table feel very comfortable and it helped warm us into comfortable and fun dinner conversation. The ambience created with this style of serving is incomparable to any other restaurant I have visited, as you feel as though you have a personal chef, making the meal a little more special. Then came the salad with the ginger dressing, which I just couldn’t get enough of! The sharp ginger was complemented with a slight sweet twist, helping to balance the dressing and complement the rest of the accompaniments. My friend and I went for the hibachi chicken and the hibachi steak, which was served alongside egg-fried rice, which the chef kindly put into an “I love you” formation for the couple sitting with us. Cute. I asked for spicier rice and the chef got the kick just right for me, which was appreciated. The chicken was soft and succulent, coated nicely in seasoning but not drippy and saucy, making it easy to devour with chopsticks. The steak was cooked medium, and was perfect for my taste. The meal was very filling after all of the courses we had beforehand, so a 10/10 in the fullness factor.

For a girl’s night out, as well as some yummy food, we wanted some delicious drinks and worked through a fair share of cocktails. We ordered Mai Tais; a classic beverage, Yuzu Margaritas; the citric yuzu complimented the margarita well and the Haiku Coladas; their take on my favourite cocktail of all time. All of the drinks were lovely, served quickly and I could definitely taste the alcohol which is a bonus!

The quality of the food is exceptional. Served fresh and made right in front of your eyes, the chefs create an interactive feel by dazzling you with neat tricks. This restaurant is perfect for an evening with friends or a special meal with a partner, but perhaps there’s not enough space to take the kids, especially if they’re a bit younger. I would only knock the server that seated us, who could have been a little warmer towards customers, but hey, we all have bad days. For me personally, I will definitely be revisiting to try more!