I've been meaning to go to Benihana for ages! I adore teppanyaki. And after that fantastic dinner at Matsuri a few years ago, I can't believe it's taken me 3 years (or is it more?!) to get out for another teppan meal in London.
Thank God for birthdays and friends!
I visited Benihana Piccadilly last month, and the first thing that struck me was the size of the place. It really is very spacious, and we navigated our way past several teppanyaki tables before finally arriving at ours. In the traditional way, we perched with 8 or so other diners on bar stools around the teppan. A teppan is the large iron plate on which the meat, vegetables and rice are cooked. A teppenyaki meal is as much about the chef's showmanship at the teppan as it is about the flavours. And our chef put on an impressive show, dicing the prawns at lightning speed, firing the onions in an impressive burst of flame, and what have you. Knives, shells, poultry flying around, the shells being picked up by his chef's hat in swift and well timed ducks, while the good bits landed precisely on the sizzling teppan. He may have faltered once or twice, but that apart it was all very entertaining to watch.
And the food was a tad oily, but very tasty. We had their traditional dinner, which begins with an onion soup and a green salad with ginger dressing. The salad was ordinary, the soup was nice but nothing sensational. The teppan skills are put to test after this, when the chef works on the prawn appetiser with Hibachi vegetables. This was fun to watch but the plate wasn't presented very well, sadly. A few pieces of prawn, a little onion and some courgette. Plenty of scope for improvement here! The mains, however, were entertaining to see come together (especially the fried rice, which required some deft slicing and cracking and mixing) and delicious. I had the salmon, which was a sumptuous portion of three fillets, and my friend had the seafood diablo, which was prawns, scallops, calamari and vegetables cooked with noodles and a spicy sauce. She thought it was very good but maybe not spicy enough.
All in all, if I have to compare, Benihana didn't match the Matsuri experience which was impeccable all all four fronts - ambience, service, food, and teppan entertainment. It came across ever so slightly sloppy in comparison. However, it definitely made for a fun night out and we did come back feeling very full and quite content.